By Kurt Voigt/The Associated Press
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Mike Anderson couldn’t help but sit back and enjoy watching Arkansas practice what he’s been preaching for a season and a half.
The Razorbacks, under their second-year coach, pressed, harassed and generally made life as uncomfortable as possible for Mississippi State in a 96-70 win on Wednesday night.
Arkansas (12-6, 3-2 Southeastern), which was led by Marshawn Powell’s 17 points, forced a season-high 29 turnovers — leading to 42 points as it improved to 12-1 at home this season, with its lone loss coming to No. 3 Syracuse.
The Razorbacks have yet to win away from home this season, but that was the farthest thing from Anderson’s mind after watching Arkansas live up to what he calls the “fastest 40 minutes in basketball.”
“That’s (how) I envision us playing,” Anderson said. “So, now the key is to take that same mindset on the road with toughness as well.
“We’ve got a good basketball team.”
Powell had 13 points in the first half for the Razorbacks, who only trailed after the game’s first basket. Leading scorer BJ Young, who came off the bench for the first time this season, added 13 points, while Coty Clarke had 13.
Fred Thomas led Mississippi State (7-10, 2-3) with 17 points. Gavin Ware added 11 and Craig Sword 10.
The 2-3 start in the SEC is the worst since 2007 for the short-handed Bulldogs, who dressed only seven scholarship players.
Mississippi State’s previous worst in turnovers this season was 22 against Marquette, a number it topped midway through the second half as Arkansas turned a nine-point game at halftime into a rout. Sword had nine turnovers for the Bulldogs, more than the Razorbacks’ team total of eight, and Thomas added six.
“We simply can’t give up 96 points in a ballgame and expect to have any sort of success,” Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. “… Twenty-nine turnovers is just a ridiculous amount of turnovers.”
The Razorbacks forced 28 turnovers earlier this season in a win over Longwood, but they topped that number late in Wednesday night’s win.
They did so in style — with a variety of breakaways and dunks in the second half. Clarke scored all 13 of his points in the second half for Arkansas, while freshman guard Anthlon Bell hit all three of his 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 9 points.
Thirteen players scored for the Razorbacks, who also had 27 assists and 11 blocks.
“Our pressure defense created a lot of havoc,” Anderson said. “We got a lot of easy opportunities from our defense, whether it be in the half-court or full-court.
“I thought fatigue was a big factor in this game.”
Arkansas led by as many as 14 points in the first half, aided by 21 points off 13 Mississippi State turnovers.
“We just weren’t calm enough and we weren’t taking care of the ball well,” Thomas said. “We just played loosely. We really forced our own turnovers. They didn’t really force our turnovers.”
It was Young, who didn’t enter the game until the 14:47 mark of the first half, who provided the Razorbacks’ offensive spark late in the half. The sophomore, after a 6 of 17 shooting performance on Saturday in a loss at Ole Miss, scored all nine of his first-half points after the Bulldogs had closed to within 23-21.
Young scored seven straight points during one stretch as Arkansas went on a 12-2 run to push its lead to 42-28. Mardracus Wade followed Young’s scoring run with a 3-pointer, and Michael Qualls finished the run in style — flying in from the right baseline for a thundering tomahawk dunk.
Powell added to the highlights in the second half, climbing for a one-handed dunk over a Mississippi State defender — only to be called for an offensive foul. Powell’s frustration with the call mattered little in the end, and the junior finished with 17 points in just 19 minutes of action, resting during the second half as Arkansas extended its lead to as many as 30 points.
Wade led the Razorbacks with five steals, while Fred Gulley had five assists.
“We played our style of play,” Gulley said. “We sped them up and kind of had them play into our hands. We converted on a lot of steals, and we finished it. It was exciting. We played exciting basketball tonight.”