FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas still has a long way to go to reach the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” style coach Mike Anderson has been trying to implement for two seasons.
But it found an opponent that helped the Razorbacks look close Wednesday night.
Arkansas leaned on its obvious advantages — depth, athleticism and defense — to overwhelm an undermanned Mississippi State team during a 96-70 win Wednesday.
Forward Marshawn Powell led the way with 17 points, while BJ Young chipped in 13 off the bench for the first time this season. But Wednesday’s win was highlighted by a group effort from the Razorbacks (12-6, 3-2 in Southeastern Conference).
Arkansas forced the Bulldogs (7-10, 2-3 in SEC) into a season-high 29 turnovers, recorded a season-best 11 blocked shots, and turned the hustle plays into plenty of transition layups and breakaway dunks in the blowout win.
It helped Arkansas improve to 3-0 at home in SEC games and notch its best point production in conference play. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, dropped their third straight after opening SEC play with wins against Georgia and South Carolina.
Arkansas’ edge was evident from the opening tip Wednesday. Anderson made a lineup change, putting guard Ky Madden on the court in place of Young. But removing Young from the starting group for the first time seemed to work.
The starting five of Madden, Marshawn Powell, Hunter Mickelson, Rickey Scott and Fred Gulley started fast against the Bulldogs, using crisp ball movement to score a handful of easy buckets in the halfcourt offense. Powell was the focal point once again, scoring eight points early to help the Razorbacks grab a 14-3 lead.
Anderson then went to his bench, pulling the starters at the 14:47 mark. Young was part of the second wave, but the group struggled. Mississippi State went on a 10-2 run to cut Arkansas’ lead to three points before Arkansas’ starters returned.
The Razorbacks eventually regained control and built as much as a 14-point lead thanks to seven straight points from Young late in the half. The Bulldogs scored the final five points, but Arkansas still took a 42-33 lead into the locker room.
It was all Arkansas needed against a Mississippi State team that only brought nine players to Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks dominated the second half, collecting layups and dunks to outscore Mississippi State by 17 points in the half.
Most of the dominance came thanks to turnovers. Mississippi State entered the game committing an SEC-high 17.2 turnovers a game and coach Rick Ray warned his team that ball protection would be vital against the swarming Razorbacks.
Arkansas collected a season-high 29 turnovers against Mississippi State. The Razorbacks also outscored Mississippi State 42-8 off the mistakes en route to its largest win in SEC play. The 96 points also was its third-highest of the season.