The visiting Razorbacks snapped a 15-game SEC road losing streak and exposed No. 18 Ole Miss down low, as big men Marshawn Powell and Mike Washington combined for 41 points in a rare Sunday night conference game.
Benefitting from the absence of Ole Miss freshman Reginald Buckner, the team’s leading shot-blocker and one of its better post defenders, the Razorbacks got clean looks in the paint and posted an 80-73 win before 8,719 at Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Rebels, dropped their second SEC home game, had a three-game winning streak snapped and now go back on the road with a quick turn-around for a Tuesday night game at Kentucky, which is likely to drop out of the No. 1 ranking today.
“Reg is our most physical and most athletic post player, and without him a four-man rotation goes to three, and then DeAundre Cranston fouls out in 13 minutes,” Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. “That forced us to go small, and they did a good job of isolating smaller players at the rim.”
While the Razorbacks (10-11, 3-3 SEC) were scoring easily on offense, they weren’t keeping pace with the Rebels (16-5, 4-3) on the boards.
Ole Miss had a 12-rebound edge at halftime, most of that on the strength of Murphy Holloway, who posted a double-double in 20 minutes with 11 points and 13 boards.
Arkansas limited the damage from Holloway in the second half, but he still finished with team highs of 19 points and 17 rebounds. Holloway had just four rebounds in the second half and the Rebels finished with a 45-32 rebounding edge.
Kennedy played man and zone and used a variety of players to try and slow down the Razorbacks’ inside game. Nothing worked. When Arkansas players didn’t score in the paint, they shot 23-for-27 as a team from the line. Powell was 5-for-6 at the line, Washington 10-for-12.
When Zach Graham, Eniel Polynice or Terrico White were guarding on the low block, Powell at 6-foot-7 and Washington at 6-10 had a big size advantage.
“It took us a while to figure out we had a big size advantage,” Powell said, “but we went to it in the second half, and it worked.”
“This is nothing new to basketball,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “If you’re going to be successful you’ve got to find a way to get into the paint and read defenses from there.”
Holloway’s first-half exploits helped Ole Miss take a 39-34 lead, a good position it appeared for a team that figured to have a hot shooting streak left in the tank.
But Washington and Powell denied the Rebels to point-blank looks they themselves enjoyed. Good shots were hard to find, as Ole Miss shot just 36.1 percent in the second half, just 38.2 for the game.
The sophomore White, who carried Ole Miss at Auburn on Thursday was just 3-for-19 from the floor and finished with nine points in 35 minutes.
Arkansas guards chased Chris Warren around the edge, and when Warren went inside there was Powell or Washington to alter shots.
The Razorbacks took a 47-45 lead less than 4 minutes into the second half. The lead changed hands four times after that until Arkansas took control in the last 3 minutes.
Clarke guns it
Warren tied the game at 71 with 3:54 left, but on the ensuing possession, Razorbacks sharp-shooter Rotnei Clarke got free in the left corner to a 3-point of his own.
“I saw him in the corner and saw Polynice 4 or 5 feet away,” Kennedy said. “I knew that was 31⁄2 feet too far.”
The Rebels held Clarke to six 3-point attempts, but he knocked down four.
Warren misfired after Clarke’s make, and two Washington free throws gave Arkansas a 76-71 lead with 1:29 left.
Ole Miss had possession in a three-point game with 29.9 seconds remaining, but White missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity.
“We played hard, we just didn’t make the plays down the stretch,” Holloway said. “The foul trouble hurt us too. We didn’t have another post player to come in.”