Sports

Arkansas comes back to down South Carolina

Columbia, SC (SportsNetwork.com) - Bobby Portis scored 24 points and helped No. 18 Arkansas to come roaring back to down South Carolina, 78-74, in a wild SEC matchup.

The Razorbacks blew a 20-point first-half lead, trailed by 11 with six minutes to play, then outscored the Gamecocks by an 18-3 margin the rest of the way to sew up the No. 2 seed for next week's SEC Tournament.

"To get a lead, then lose it and then for our guys to still come out and still battle hard, that shows our toughness and our togetherness," Portis said.

Michael Qualls added 18 points and scored the go-ahead layup with 1:26 remaining, while Anthlon Bell hit 5-of-8 attempts from 3-point range -- including two during Arkansas' game-ending run -- in a 17-point effort.

The hard-fought victory was the eighth in nine games for Arkansas (24-6, 13-4 SEC), with its lone blemish over that stretch coming at still-unbeaten Kentucky this past Saturday.

Tyrone Johnson finished with 18 points and six assists in a tough Senior Night result for South Carolina (14-15, 5-12). Duane Notice and Michael Carrera each tallied 14 points for the Gamecocks, with Carrera pulling down nine rebounds.

Shooting better than 52 percent from the field in the second half, South Carolina appeared poised for the upset after putting forth a 10-2 run. Sindarius Thornwell capped the surge with a driving layup that put Arkansas down 71-60 with 7:20 to go.

The Gamecocks didn't make a basket over the final four minutes, however, and were further hampered when Johnson was forced to exit his final home game with 2:29 remaining due to leg cramps.

Bell got the Razorbacks' comeback started by burying two triples around a Qualls jumper and sinking a shorter-range bucket that brought Arkansas within 73-70 at the time of Johnson's departure. Portis scored on the team's next possession, then forced a South Carolina turnover that led to Qualls' basket that sent the Razorbacks ahead by one.

As the Gamecocks continued to struggle down the stretch, Portis tipped in a Jacorey Williams miss for a 76-73 lead with 15.3 seconds left. Qualls fouled Thornwell while shooting on South Carolina's next trip, which was initially ruled a 3-point try but later changed to a two-shot infraction upon review.

Thornwell hit the first and deliberately missed the second, with Qualls grabbing the rebound to seal the outcome.

"I knew we were going to play well today," Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin said. "They fight, they don't back down. But we put ourselves, game after game after game, in a place to win and those last four minutes of the game are always an adventure. I'm disappointed with the loss but proud of the guys in the locker room."

The Razorbacks got on a major roll midway through the opening half, with Bell draining two 3-pointers during an 11-1 spurt that staked them to a 27-13 lead less than nine minutes in.

Portis got into the act later on, with the big forward knocking down a beyond- the-arc shot and converting a conventional 3-point play to spark an 8-0 stretch that had Arkansas up comfortably at 43-23 with six minutes to go in the period.

The Gamecocks then came to life, embarking on a 13-2 flurry to bring the deficit under single digits. They trailed 49-38 at the half, in large part due to Portis' 15 points, but came out on fire to start the second stanza.

South Carolina went on a 12-2 run out of the break, highlighted by consecutive 3-pointers from Notice. He was fouled on the second make and made the ensuing bonus shot that had the Gamecocks behind just 51-50 with 15:38 left.

The Gamecocks moved in front a little over three minutes later on Laimonas Chatkevicius' layup, which was followed by a trey from Mindaugas Kacinas that gave the hosts a 61-56 advantage with 11:33 remaining.

"They came out in the second half and just took the fight to us," said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. "They attacked the glass on us, they made shots, got to the free throw line and I thought they just outplayed us. Our guys had enough in the tank and some resiliency to finish a game off, making plays down the stretch."

Game Notes

The win was Arkansas' first in Columbia since Feb. 20, 2001, snapping a six- game road losing streak in the series ... The Razorbacks had an easier time with the Gamecocks in Fayetteville back on Feb. 3, cruising to a 75-55 win ... Arkansas went just 11-of-31 from the floor in the second half after shooting 55.9 percent in the first ... The Razorbacks forced 16 turnovers, improving to 20-0 this season when having 15 or more takeaways.