FAYETTEVILLE--Through its first two SEC games of the season the basketball Razorbacks have averaged just 53.5 points, well below the team's season average of 79 points per game. So much for The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball.
But if Arkansas is having trouble scoring points consider the plight of Vanderbilt. The defending SEC Tournament champs had just 11 points at the half in Saturday's game against the Hogs. From an offensive standpoint it was an ugly game although Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings was quick blame his own team.
"The ugliness was probably more attributable to us," Stallings deadpanned after the game. "We probably uglied them (Arkansas) down."
While it is true that the visitors put up some questionable shots it should be noted that there were other factors in Vanderbilt's 25 % shooting from the floor and 13.3 % from behind the arc. Arkansas was playing some pretty salty defense.
The Razorbacks blocked five shots and grabbed 14 steals while forcing 25 turnovers. That will limit a team's offense no matter how bad its shots look.
"They got us rattled and it stayed that way the whole game," Stallings affirmed.
"We wanted to play defense and I feel like that's what we did," Arkansas junior forward Marshawn Powell told reporters after the game. "We didn't let them run their offense."
The Hogs scored just five more points than they managed in Wednesday's road loss at Texas A&M but the difference in defense was easy to see. After giving up 69 points to the Aggies the Razorbacks held Vandy to just 33 points, the fewest ever by an Arkansas opponent in SEC play.
Junior walkon guard Kikko Haydar, who came up with four rebounds and a steal while dishing out two assists, said it was simply a matter of playing harder. "As a team we brought energy and that's something that wasn't there against Texas A&M," Haydar explained. "That's something we have to continue to bring every game whether it's at Bud Walton or on the road."
A good bit of the Razorbacks' offense was generated by its defense but junior forward Marshawn Powell was a force on the offensive end after getting shut out against the Aggies. Powell scored the first eight points of the game on a dunk, a layup and two jumpers. He outpointed Vanderbilt in the first half, 14-11.
"We knew he was a good player," Stallings acknowledged. "We knew he would bounce back."
According to Powell he bounced back after a lengthy study session.
"I stayed up 'till about 6:30 the next morning (after the A&M game) watching all the old games that I have," Powell explained. "One thing came to my mind. Everytime I ended up playing good I started off real, real fast. So that's what I tried to do."
Powell may have sparked the Razorbacks with his scoring but defensive minded head coach Mike Anderson liked what he did without the ball.
"I saw him really engaged on defense," Anderson noted. "He was talking, really orchestrating what was taking place out on the floor. He's our most experienced forward. It makes sense if he has some success that bodes well for our team."
"I just got to stay out of foul trouble," Powell said of his struggles at Texas A&M. "If I stay out of foul trouble and attack the basket hard and keep a positive attitude the sky's the limit for us."
Next up for Arkansas, a 7 p.m. tipoff Wednesday at home against surprising Auburn which is off to a 2-0 start in conference play for the first time in a decade.