FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — If Arkansas isn’t careful, it might just turn into a quality 3-point shooting team.
Led by Anthlon Bell and Michael Qualls, the Razorbacks once again showed their new-found prowess from behind the arc in an 89-78 win over former Southwest Conference rival SMU on Monday night.
Bell and Qualls hit three 3-pointers each, and Arkansas (3-0) finished 11 of 22 from behind the arc overall.
The 3-pointers topped last season’s high of 10 in a game for the Razorbacks, who have now won 17-straight games at home, and they were the most the school has made in three seasons under coach Mike Anderson.
“We made shots tonight,” Anderson said. “We made shots, and I thought that stretched their defense. When their defense was stretched, we were able to attack and get some (drives) to the basket.”
Alandise Harris led Arkansas with 21 points, including 11 of 11 on free throws, but it was the 3-point frenzy — particularly in the first half — that led the way.
For a team that connected on just 30 percent of its 3-pointers last season, Monday’s follow-up was a welcomed performance — and it started with 3-pointers from Bell and Fred Gulley on the Razorbacks’ opening two possessions.
“As a team, we put in a lot of work over the summertime shooting,” Bell said. “Coach (Anderson) stressed it because we know we can’t just rely on the inside game. We’ve got to have people knocking down shots.
“As a team, we took that upon ourselves to be a better shooting team this year.”
Qualls finished with 17 points while Bell added 11 for Arkansas, which hadn’t played the Mustangs (2-1) since a non-conference game in Fayetteville in 1995. The two schools were former conference foes until the Razorbacks left the SWC in 1992 to join the Southeastern Conference.
Ben Moore had 19 points, and Yanick Moreira added 15 for SMU, which played without McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier because of an ankle injury.
Nic Moore also had 12 points and Nick Russell 10, but the Mustangs were unable to complete a comeback that saw them cut Arkansas’ lead from 24 points to six in the second half.
“I just think their quality of play affected us more than anything,” SMU coach Larry Brown said. “… I think they were prepared, made shots. When you’re playing with a lead at home, the basket gets huge, and we never could put any heat on them until late.”
The Razorbacks led 67-43 midway through the half following a pair of free throw by Harris, though SMU was far from finished.
Ben Moore, who was 8 of 10 from the floor, led the Mustangs on a 24-7 run to close Arkansas’ lead to as few as six points in the closing minutes.
After Harris’ three-point play put the Razorbacks up 77-67, Nic Moore answered with back-to-back jumpers — sandwiched around an Arkansas free throw — for SMU to cut the lead to 78-72 with 2:08 remaining.
Harris responded with an alley-oop dunk on an assist from Coty Clarke, and he added a block on the other end as the Razorbacks went back up 84-74 and held on via free throws down the stretch.
“We just lost intensity, playing like the game was over when it really wasn’t over,” Harris said.
Arkansas led 46-30 at halftime, thanks in large part to an 8-of-14 shooting effort on 3-pointers.
The Razorbacks, who hit just 30 percent of their 3-pointers last season, were just 2 of 13 from behind the arc in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday — a game after opening the season 8 of 16.
It didn’t take long for Arkansas, led by Bell, to revert to its season-opening form on Monday night.
Bell and Gulley opened the game with 3-pointers to give the Razorbacks a quick 6-0 lead, and that was just the start of the hot-shooting fun.
Six players connected from deep in the first half for Arkansas, which hit 15 of 30 shots (50 percent) overall and took its largest lead at 46-30 after a jumper by Jacorey Williams to close out the half.
The Mustangs nearly rallied in the second half as the Razorbacks cooled off, hitting just 10 of 27 shots (37 percent) after their hot first half.
The deficit, however, proved too much to overcome against an Arkansas team that’s now won 37-straight games at home against unranked non-conference opponents.
“I always think it’s easy to come back,” Brown said. “It’s really hard to get over the hump.”
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