FAYETTEVILLE - Size and ability does matter. Arkansas had inside strength. Mississippi Valley did not.
Marshawn Powell, Delvon Johnson and Glenn Bryant were too much inside as Arkansas pulled away in the second half for an 87-64 nonconference basketball victory before 5,375 Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
The 6-8 Powell led the way with 17 points in what he called his "best game" of the year. The sophomore forward is battling back from a broken foot sustained in the summer.
Johnson, 6-9 senior, added 15 points with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. The 6-8 Bryant scored 12 points, took 10 rebounds and blocked two shots in just 14 minutes.
Arkansas (7-1) trailed 9-3 after three minutes and was ahead by just 37-36 with 2:36 left in the first half, but dominated the rest of the way. The Hogs led 43-38 at intermission and won the second half, 44-26. They used a 13-2 run to take a 67-47 lead at the 8:10 mark.
Mississippi Valley (1-8) scored just seven field goals in the second half, shooting just 22.6 percent. The Delta Devils found their driving lanes cut off by the UA big men.
"I think what they did to us was have their big men wait for us at the rim," said Sean Woods, Mississippi Valley coach. "They couldn't stay in front of our guards, but we didn't dump it down to our big men when we got there -- like their guards did to their big men."
Rotnei Clarke went scoreless for the Hogs. He missed six shots from the field, four of them on threes. It was the first time he did not score since the Tennessee game Feb. 4, 2009. He didn't hit a three pointer in the final game last year.
"We did a good job on him last year," Woods said. "I think maybe we held him to 5 points. But they can survive better without him this year. They stood around and watched him last year. This year they have some sets with their big men, double post and can do other things. They aren't so selfish this year."
Arkansas coach John Pelphrey didn't think there was "any rhythm" to the way the Hogs played, but did appreciate the better defense after the halftime break.
"We got into them with our defense in the second half," Pelphrey said. "We got a win. It's good to get back on the floor after finals. You don't worry about the physical part so much, the mental because of their focus on academics this last week."
Pelphrey thought the stat sheet might have deceived where his big men were concerned.
"On paper, that might look good with Marshawn, Delvon and Glenn," he said. "I didn't think we played all that well. We did struggle to get a rhythm.
"Obviously, Marshawn is getting better. He's about 85 percent now. What I liked was that yesterday in practice he made it through everything. He didn't come out one time."
Powell said there have been times his foot "has felt better, but that's the best I've played. I'm moving better."
Pelphrey liked the way Powell moved and handled the ball.
"He doesn't have the hops back yet, the ability to explode in a repetitive way," Pelphrey said. "But he moved around and did some things that tell you he's getting back. He's going to get the explosion back at some point."
Delta State has played at Georgia, Indiana, BYU, Butler and Mississippi. The best effort in that stretch was a 72-70 loss in Athens.
So what did Woods, a college teammate of Pelphrey at Kentucky, think of his friend's team -- especially compared to those other heavyweights on the schedule?
"They are much better than last year," Woods said. "They have better character, buy into what Pel's wants to do. They are running his stuff and they are going to be better than what some think. Honestly, they are better than I thought.
"They have some good low post play. Delvon Johnson has improved to the point that he may be able to make some money. He's tougher, more skilled. He's better. We played Georgia to two points and some think they may challenge in the East. Pel's team may be just as good."
The Hogs have a quick turnaround for their next game. They travel to Dallas to play Texas A&M at 1 p.m. Saturday.