FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — Anthlon Bell set a career high for the second straight home game, finishing with 28 points as Arkansas pulled away for a 91-71 win over Indiana State in the opening round of the NIT on Tuesday night.
The win is the first in the NIT for the third-seeded Razorbacks (22-11) since 1997, the last time the school was in the tournament. It's also Arkansas' first postseason win of any kind since a first-round win in the NCAA tournament in 2008.
Bell, who had 23 points in his last home game, had 18 points in 17 first-half minutes to carry Arkansas. Six players scored in double figures for the Razorbacks, and Bobby Portis had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Manny Arop led the Sycamores (23-11) with 12 points, while Dawon Cummings and Jake Odum had 11 each. Khristian Smith also finished in double figures with 10.
Indiana State, which was making its school-record fifth straight postseason appearance, finished second to undefeated Wichita State in the Missouri Valley Conference this season and had a 9-6 road record, including a win at Notre Dame on Nov. 17.
The Sycamores, however, led only once against the Southeastern Conference Razorbacks — who were still smarting after a two-game swoon to end the regular season that kept them out of the NCAA tournament.
Arkansas led by as many as 18 points in the second half after a 3-pointer by Michael Qualls extended the lead to 54-36, and it never let Indiana State close to within fewer than eight points after that.
The Sycamores closed to 69-61 after a 3-pointer by Odum, but the Razorbacks closed out the game on a 22-10 run.