DALLAS (AP) — Playing as a ranked team for the first time in seven years, No. 25 Arkansas established itself quickly against SMU.
The Razorbacks never trailed against the Larry Brown-coached SMU team that rarely loses at home, getting 22 points from Bobby Portis in a 78-72 win Tuesday night.
“A lot of people don’t win here, so it was a big opportunity for us,” said guard Michael Qualls, who scored 13 points. “That would be horrible news just to hear we broke the Top 25 to come lose a day later.”
Arkansas went ahead to stay after Portis made a 3-pointer for the game’s first basket, holding on after an SMU surge in the second half, to improve to 4-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
SMU (2-3) was No. 22 in the AP Top 25 before consecutive road losses last week against No. 10 Gonzaga and Indiana. The Mustangs dropped out of the poll Monday, the same day that the Razorbacks got ranked for the first time since November 2007.
“We can’t go off previous years,” Portis said. “Coach (Mike) Anderson said that we have come out with a bang this year. This is one of our bangs, I guess.”
SMU had won 14 of its previous 15 games since moving back into the completely renovated Moody Coliseum last January. The other loss was to Louisville.
The Razorbacks charged out to an 11-2 lead in the game’s first four minutes, getting that on Qualls’ strong inside basket. But Qualls was called for a technical foul when he shouted out and then was in Frazier’s face. Moore made both free throws for the Mustangs.
But SMU started 1-of-9 shooting and had seven turnovers in the first nine minutes.
“They were much more aggressive, much better prepared, and set the tone,” Brown said. “I think that came from their aggressiveness and pressure, and us being tentative and scared.”
Yanick Moreira led SMU with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Keith Frazier added 16 points and Ryan Manuel 13. Nic Moore had 10 points and six assists.
The Mustangs trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half, but got within 73-68 on Moreira’s alley-oop dunk on a pass from Moore with 37 seconds left. That was as close as they got.
Arkansas had been up 50-31 on a jumper by freshman Anton Beard with 13:38 left before SMU responded with its best spurt of the game, with Frazier and Moreira both scoring eight points in an 18-6 run over the next 4 1/2 minutes. The Mustangs were within 55-49 after Moreira’s jumper with just over nine minutes left.
After the bad start early, Ben Moore had a three-point play and Frazier a 3-pointers to get SMU within 15-12 with 10 minutes left in the first half. But Beard made a 3-pointer just more than a minute later and Qualls had an impressive one-handed dunk in traffic for the Razorbacks, who led 33-22 at halftime.
“It’s going to be hard to win a game when you have five assists and 16 turnovers in the first half,” Brown said. “They created that.”
Arkansas: While outscored in the paint 32-28, the Razorbacks had an 18-9 edge in points off turnovers and 11-4 in second-chance points.
SMU: After the 16 turnovers in the first half, including four players with three each, the Mustangs had only three as a team after halftime.
Arkansas is home against North Texas on Friday night.
SMU is home again Wednesday night to play Texas Southern.
Even though Arkansas visited Moody Coliseum for the first time in 20 seasons, with the only other meeting against the Razorbacks’ old Southwest Conference rival since being last year in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks still have played no other team more. This was the 155th meeting in the series, and Arkansas now leads 96-59. SMU has played Rice (197 games) and Baylor (175) more.
HOME FOR THANKSGIVING
SMU played the second of seven consecutive home games. The next one is Wednesday night, a scheduled set of back-to-back home games, before playing Monmouth on Sunday.
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