Auburn's SEC struggles continue in 86-67 loss on the road to Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas needed something positive to happen in the worst way in the second half against Auburn.
Ky Madden provided exactly that, scoring a career-high 24 points as the Razorbacks rebounded from their recent struggles with an 86-67 win over the reeling Tigers on Saturday night.
Madden, the onetime afterthought who's morphed into Arkansas' leading scorer this season, was perfect from the field in the second half while hitting 4 of 4 from the field including a pair of 3-pointers and 9 of 9 free throws.
The junior, who entered the season with a career scoring average of 6.8 points per game, has now scored in double figures in seven straight games.
More importantly, his second-half outburst helped put an end to a two-game losing streak for the Razorbacks (13-6, 2-4 SEC).
"We really needed the win," Madden said. "Just for us personally and for our season."
Bobby Portis added 18 points, 14 in the first half, for Arkansas which was coming off a disappointing, late setback at Tennessee on Wednesday.
Fred Gulley finished with 10 for the Razorbacks, who have now won 25 of their last 26 games at home. Arkansas was 17 of 26 (65.4 percent) from the field in the second half after struggling in the first half, finishing 28 of 61 (45.9 percent) overall.
"I thought in the second half, the wear and tear was very evident in this game," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "... The thing I was most proud of our guys, they did a good job of finishing.
"We hadn't finished well in many games, but I thought we were assertive and aggressive, making the right plays at the right time."
Chris Denson led the Tigers (8-9, 0-6) with 18 points, while KT Harrell added 17 and Tahj Shamsid-Deen finished with 12.
Auburn hit just 11 of 35 shots (31.4 percent) in the first half on the way to its sixth straight loss. The Tigers were just 4 of 19 (21.1 percent) on 3-pointers, and they've now lost 16 straight conference games.
"We missed way too many shots, that's the bottom line," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "We had any shot we wanted, great looks from behind the 3, in the paint and at the rim. You have to shoot better than 36 percent."
Arkansas led by as many as 15 points in the first half, despite hitting just 11 of 35 (31.4 percent) shots.
The Tigers stayed in the game for much of the second half, trailing 66-58 after a 3-pointer by Harrell.
The Razorbacks, however, ended the game on a 20-9 run while Auburn finished 21 of 58 (36.2 percent) from the field.
"We knew we'd get it going, and in the second half we just kept getting good looks and the shots went down," Gulley said.
Arkansas had lost four of five games entering Saturday, including back-to-back road losses after the loss at Tennessee.
The Razorbacks' woes continued early against Auburn, which hasn't won an SEC game since a 49-37 win over Alabama on Feb. 6, 2013.
Despite missing their first eight shots, the Tigers trailed only 14-13 in the early going thanks in part to the similar shooting woes of Arkansas. The Razorbacks hit just three of their first 13 shots, with the two teams combining to shoot 18 of 62 (29 percent) in the half.
"We've started off like that a whole bunch of games," Denson said. "... We come in and try to match their tempo instead of trying to play hard and let them match our tempo. We can't start like that."
Portis followed the early struggles with exactly the spark Arkansas needed, scoring five straight points to put the Razorbacks up 19-13. The points were the beginning of a 17-3 run for Arkansas, which took its largest lead of the first half at 31-16 after a pair of free throws by Moses Kingsley.
The Razorbacks, the highest-scoring team in the SEC at 82.8 per game, outscored the Tigers 18-4 on the fast break.
Portis, a freshman who was a high school McDonald's All-American last year, had scored just 10 points in the Razorbacks' previous two games, both losses.
The 6-foot-10 forward topped that in the first half on Saturday, finishing 6 of 9 from the field and showing more of an inside game than he had previously this season.
"That's been a point of emphasis with him," Anderson said. "He has size, agility, good footwork. Now he's just got to continue to attack the basket."
Follow Kurt Voigt on Twitter @Kurt_Voigt_AP