By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach John Calipari knows Arkansas “is one of those teams” that can be difficult to beat on a given night — like when the Razorbacks got a game-winning dunk from Michael Qualls to beat UK in double overtime at home earlier this season.
“They play extremely hard, got good players, they shoot the ball,” said Calipari. “I would guess that both teams have gotten better. I’ve watched a couple tapes of them. A lot of the scrambling and stuff they’re doing, they’re even taking it to another level. I think they’ve got their breakdown guys, really have the ability to get to the basket. In our case, I hope we’re better. I think we’re better.”
Qualls has started 13 games and averages 11.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. He’s a 37 percent shooter from 3-point range.
“What he does athletically is he can stand out, he can do things, and make plays that are broken down and he still goes in and makes a play,” Calipari said. “The rebound he got was off a missed shot and he just attacked the basket and won the game. We obviously know how good he is, but knowing how good he is and trying to slow a guy down are two different things.”
Qualls has dramatically improved his 3-point shooting this year.
“He has the confidence to be able do that. Really tells a lot about the young man,” Calipari said.
Freshman forward Bobby Portis continues to lead Arkansas and averages 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds — both team highs — per game. He’s a 54 percent shooter from the field.
“Portis plays with a high motor. He does not have to have the ball to be the best player,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “He will go rebound it. He will set a screen. He will make a pass. He will play hard on defense. I am very impressed with him. He is a terrific player and has a terrific future.”
“Bobby does a lot of good things,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I still want him to be stronger with the ball around the basket, but he is a versatile forward and his confidence is pretty high right now. He is also getting to the free throw line and knocking down shots.”
Arkansas has 11 players averaging 10 or more minutes per game.
“I think any time somebody comes off the bench and has a good game, it is a shot in the arm for your team. But Arkansas plays so many guys that you have to figure at some point one guy coming off the bench will play well,” Stallings said.