BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA -- Arkansas guard Coty Clarke took to the podium on Thursday at this year's SEC…
Arkansas 81, Northeastern State 54
In the Razorbacks' final exhibition game of the season, he was just that as he helped his squad break away from a seven-point to a runaway.
Clarke had 16 points and 7 rebounds while sophomore Anthlon Bell chipped in 15 points and junior Alandise Harris 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks as Arkansas downed Division II Northeastern State 81-54 Tuesday night before 4,525 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"Coty has been bring that in practice – just old, steady Coty," Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. "He has been taking ownership, a leadership role and he is playing at a good level right now. Let's hope that continues.
"I thought he was an enforcer in the first half – especially on the boards," Anderson added. "He was getting a lot of rebounds and in the second half – as we opened up the game to where we got to our tempo – he kind of exerted himself with our basketball team."
Clarke, a 6-7, 225-pound forward, was 4-of-4 from the field in the Razorbacks first exhibition game while scoring 14 points and grabbing 6 rebounds and was 7-of-9 from the floor on Tuesday night.
He was 8-of-9 from the free throw line in the two exhibition games, including 2-of-3 on Tuesday night against the Tahlequah, Okla.,-based squad ranked No. 17 nationally in the Divison II preseason poll.
"I think it is just a combination of my teammates getting me the basketball and – we work on this every day – you know when to attack and when not to," Clarke said. "You get a feel of knowing when to swing the ball around or when to attack. That is where my shot selection comes from. It's not credited to me. I credit my teammates for getting me open, coming off and getting me looks and vice versa."
Michael Qualls and Fred Gulley added nine points each for the Razorbacks, who were playing again without suspended guard Rashad Madden.
Arkansas, which opens its regular season Friday night against SIU-Edwardsville, was dismal shooting from the floor in the first half while going 12-of-39 overall and just 4-of-16 in the second half.
But that turned around after intermission as the Razorbacks hit on 19-of-32 field goals in the second half after leading just 33-26 at the break.
"When you talk about playing one half better than the other, we saw that tonight," Anderson said. "The second half I thought our guys came out with tremendous focus and energy. We kind of dabbled and changed our line up a little bit and guys came out and responded to the challenge at halftime.
"In the first half, I thought we were stagnant offensively," Anderson added. "We were playing the game at their pace. I thought our defense at times was good, but I just thought that on offense we settled for jump shots.
"But in the second half I thought you saw a team that was really having great fluid motion on offense," Anderson continued. "But the biggest part was our defense and our energy. We were engaged and on the same page, deflecting passes and not only that but making wear and tear and big factor in game. That was fatigue and I think Northeaster got tired out there."
Arkansas freshman Bobby Portis, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds in the first exhibition, had just 2 points on 1-of-8 shooting Tuesday night, but did contribute 6 rebounds and a game-high 6 assists.
"It just shows you that he can have an effect on the game and it is not just his scoring," Anderson said. "He has a tremendous basketball IQ and this was a learning curve for him. Why I say that is that they were pushing and being physical with him, but he had the presence of mind to try and share the rock in the second half.
"You have got to remember this guy is a true freshman, but his upside - when you look at him and look at his basketball IQ and what he brings to the table – it is just a matter of time," Anderson added. "That was just his second game playing in a Razorback uniform. He is only going to get better."
Arkansas forced 22 turnovers while committing just 12, had 13 steals and won the board battle over the smaller Riverhawks to the tune of 48-35.
After making just 4-of-16 3-pointers in the first half, the Razorbacks shot only nine in the second half and ended the night 6-of-25 as they took the ball more to the basket in the second half.
"We just talked about coming out the first five minutes (after halftime)with super energy and playing the way we play everyday in practice," Anderson said.
Keon Littleton had 14 points to lead Northeastern State while Michael Harmon added 10 and Springdale native Curtis Evans notched seven in his return to Northwest Arkansas.
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