It took a bit for Arkansas
Rotnei Clarke scored 24 points to lead the Hogs to an 87-59 nonconference victory, but the real excitement came when he went to the bench in favor of little-used, walk-on guard Kikko Haydar for the final 5:08 in what had been a game minus a lot of excitement.
Haydar brought the crowd to life with 8 points in a two-minute spurt that brought the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation. Haydar made two of his three shots from 3-point range -- something the Hogs did well for most of the night.
Arkansas (9-2) played without Marshawn Powell, a preseason All-SEC forward. The 6-8 Powell was suspended by coach John Pelphrey after he returned late from the Christmas break following a car accident.
"The Razorback Way, which is to work hard, together, all the time is something that all of us in the basketball program take very seriously," Pelphrey said. "Marshawn has been very committed to those things in the past and I believe that he will be again. He is a member of our team and will return to the court when he makes the commitment required of our student athletes."
Pelphrey said Powell is practicing with the team.
The Hogs made 15 of 33 3-point shots against a collapsing A&T defense designed to limit shots from 6-9 center Delvon Johnson inside.
"We played the style of defense we like to play in our conference," said Jerry Eaves, Aggies coach. "We play our defense to protect the paint. We want to make teams in our conference shoot as many threes as possible and play us inside out. Arkansas hit their threes tonight."
Arkansas hit only 4 of 15 in the first nine minutes, but still had an 11-7 lead because the Aggies hit just 2 of 17 in that stretch. It was still just 21-17 at the 5:32 mark of the first half when the Hogs took command.
Clarke hit two threes and Marcus Britt three more as the Hogs spurted to a 37-22 halftime lead. Clarke added two more threes inthe first four minutes of the second half as the Hogs bumped the lead to 49-26.
"They forced us into perimeter shots," Pelphrey said. "I don't like to take that many threes. That's not our strength. They like to lull you into that style of game. We made eight (threes) in the first half and that's over achieving for us."
Britt, shooting just 28 percent for the year on threes for the season, scored 12 points on a 4 of 5 night from the 3-point line. Pelphrey was waiting for him with a handshake when he came out with 1:59 left.
"I just told him we needed a performance like that from him," Pelphrey said. "I've talked to him twice in the last few days. We all know Marcus is a borderline 40 percent shooter on threes for his career. When the season is over, he'll be there again."
The Hogs didn't have a lot of inside fire power with Powell out anyway, but were even thinner when Glenn Bryant "twisted" an ankle in the first half. He didn't play in the second half.
Pelphrey said afterwards the Hogs will be without guard Rickey Scott for four to six weeks with a "stress reaction" to an injured foot.
"He missed a game, went home (for Christmas) and practiced in our double days," Pelphrey said. "It was sore the next day so we had it X-rayed (Wednesday morning)."
Pelphrey said he was not surprised with Haydar's performance, noting he came in early because of the depleted bench.
"I love that kid," Pelphrey said. "He's going to fiddle around and get (into the rotation) at some point. He already helps us in practice and we see that on a daily basis, but everyone is going to get to see him at some point."
Delvon Johnson made only 4 of 9 shots inside, but he had 13 rebounds and 7 blocked shots to go with his 9 points.
The Hogs have one day to prepare for their next foe, visiting Texas-Arlington at 7 p.m. Friday.
Delvon Johnson shoots a jump hook.
Kikko Haydar goes for a steal.
Marvell Waithe finishes a dunk on a fast break.
Photo by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated
Arkansas 87, North Carolina A&T 59
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