FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) – Bobby Portis had nearly a week to think about Arkansas’ most disappointing loss of the season.
The Razorbacks’ leading scorer used that internal motivation — as well as a loving push from coach Mike Anderson — to help Arkansas put an end to its two-game losing skid with a 69-55 win over Dayton on Saturday afternoon.
Portis had 18 points and nine rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting, connecting on several long jump shots and sparking the Razorbacks — just days after Anderson said the team’s preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection needed to demand the ball more.
More than Anderson’s push, however, it was the leftover feelings from a late loss at Clemson last week that fueled Portis.
“I had six days to think about that last loss,” Portis said. “So, that’s something I wanted to get off my chest.”
Arkansas (7-2) dropped from the Top 25 after losses in its last two games at Iowa State and Clemson, but it led by 17 in the first half and didn’t let up in the second half against the Flyers — who came within a win of the Final Four last season.
Jordan Sibert scored 18 points to lead Dayton (7-2), which had won five straight since a loss to Connecticut.
The Flyers had won nine of their last 11 games against the SEC, though one of those losses was to Florida in last year’s NCAA tournament regional finals.
They struggled to find their shooting touch and comfort level throughout on Saturday, finishing 40.4 percent (21 of 52) from the field and committing 15 turnovers — 10 in the first half — against the Razorbacks. Dayton is now 26-10 over the last eight seasons against the major five conferences.
“We’ve been in a lot of big games, played a lot of tough teams,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “But I do think Arkansas exposed us a little bit, just in terms of how we’re going to have to prepare to play against this type of pressure as we move forward.”
While the Flyers appeared uncomfortable from the start, Arkansas thoroughly enjoyed its first home game in two weeks.
With point guard Jabril Durham making his first start since the season opener, following a series of late-game turnovers that hampered the Razorbacks in the loss at Clemson, Arkansas used a 16-3 run in the first half to take a 30-14 lead and control the game for good.
Jacorey Williams had an alley-oop from Nick Babb, and Anthlon Bell had a 3-pointer to cap the run for Arkansas.
Durham finished with nine points after making all three of his 3-point attempts, while Ky Madden added 12 points on 8-of-8 free throw shooting.
The win was the perfect remedy for what had been an ailing Arkansas, which hadn’t won a game since Nov. 30 against Iona but expects to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008 this season.
“That’s growth,” Anderson said. “The adversity took place on the road, so you find out a little bit more about your basketball team. We found out.”
Durham’s 25 minutes were a season high, topping the 21 he played in a season-opening win over Alabama State. The junior college transfer hit the first basket of the game to put the Razorbacks up 3-0, and he also had a pair of assists for Arkansas — which had 16 assists overall on its 24 field goals.
Portis, a preseason first-team All-SEC selection, has now scored in double figures in all but one game this season. The 6-foot-11 sophomore entered the game seventh in the conference in scoring with an average of 15.5 points per game.
Dayton is off for a week before returning home to host Boston University on Dec. 20.
Arkansas is also off for a week for finals, next hosting Southeast Missouri State in North Little Rock on Dec. 20. It’s the first of two games in three days for the Razorbacks.