FAYETTEVILLE — Marshawn Powell scored a career-high 33 points to lead Arkansas past Oklahoma, 81-78, on Tuesday at Bud Walton Arena.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Arkansas. Oklahoma, on the other hand, had its winning streak end at three.
“The thing I’ve been saying is our team is getting better,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “It was good to see them get rewarded with a good win against a good Oklahoma team. Sometimes, you want to see results.”
Arkansas led by as many as 11 early in the second half. But the Sooners (6-2) rallied to within one with just more than 5 minutes left in the game. Rashad Madden’s back-to-back baskets gave Arkansas a five-point cushion with 4 minutes remaining.
But the Sooners rallied in the final minute thanks to the 3-point shooting of Steven Pledger. The senior guard pulled OU to within two with 40.2 seconds left.
After Madden missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity, Pledger hit his fourth three of the game which gave the Sooners a 78-77 lead with 24 seconds remaining. But Arkansas guard B.J. Young raced down the court for a layup to retake the lead for the Razorbacks at 79-78.
“I was proud of our guys, because they had a lot of chances to fold the tents,” Anderson said. “Especially when Pledger hit that three to put them up one. But we came back down and answered the call. That’s what good teams and, hopefully, we think we can be a good team.”
Oklahoma’s Romero Osby missed a jumper, which Powell rebounded. The junior forward was fouled and hit two free throws that ended the scoring.
“It was one of those games where we trailed for so long and then were not able to get over the top,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “Arkansas did some nice things to win the ballgame.”
But Powell wasn’t finished. He knocked away the Sooners’ ensuing inbounds pass, which resulted in a wild, off-balance shot at the buzzer that had no chance of going in.
Powell’s previous career-high was 29 points against Appalachian State on Nov. 20, 2009. His high-point total this season was 21 against Florida A&M, also on Nov. 20.
He entered the game hitting 3 of 10 from three-point range, but sank 4 of 6 against the Sooners.
“It was good to see him really look in rhythm,” Anderson said of Powell. “Not only on offense, but on defense. I thought his presence was very important for our team tonight.”
Arkansas entered the game hitting just .262 from behind the three-point arc. Led by Powell, the Razorbacks made 9 of 22 against Oklahoma. Not eye-catching, but 40.9 percent represents a big improvement from the season average.
“We made shots. I think we’re a much better team than we’ve been shooting,” Anderson said. “I thought our defense predicated that. … We knocked down shots. Shooting is contagious sometimes. Marshawn started knocking down shots early and I think maybe that fed throughout our team.”
Young entered the game averaging 21.4 points per game for Arkansas. Playing a tight zone most of the game, Oklahoma limited him to just 10. But the sophomore point guard posted a career high with eight assists. Singlehandedly, he had more assists against OU than the entire Arkansas team did in a 91-82 loss to Syracuse last Friday.
“We had 30 field goals and we had 21 assists,” Anderson said. “We had seven assists against Syracuse the other night. That tells you we did a better job with ball movement.”
Kruger said his team’s defensive focus was on stopping Young from scoring.
“He’s so quick off the dribble, gets to the paint, gets to the rim,” Kruger said. “I thought our awareness of Young was pretty good. He’s a good player, tough to guard.”
Arkansas trailed by four less than 3 minutes into the game, but a Hunter Mickelson basket followed by a Powell three-pointer gave the Razorbacks an early 7-6 lead. Arkansas bumped the lead out to seven and held it there through the heart of the first half.
With just more than 4 minutes remaining, Arkansas led by nine. But the Sooners finally made a three-pointer of their own as Pledger sank one. Je’lon Hornbeak followed with another basket that cut the Razorbacks’ lead to four. The freshman guard then drew a flagrant foul from Madden on a breakaway.
Hornbeak hit one of two free throws and Cameron Clark hit a shot in the paint on the ensuing possession to make it 31-30 Arkansas with 3:20 remaining.
However, Powell — who scored 19 of his game-high 33 in the first half — hit two more threes in the final three minutes as Arkansas led 41-38 at the break.
Osby led OU with 22, while Amath M’Baye scored 14 and Pledger scored 12. Mardracus Wade scored 10 for Arkansas.