It wasn't would Arkansas (10-5, 1-1) score more points than Vanderbilt - that was a given.
The question was would Marshawn Powell and/or B.J. Young score more than the Commodores?
Powell hit his first eight field goal attempts and ended with 17 points, 6 rebounds and a career-high 6 steals and Young added 12 of his 14 points in the second half to lead the Razorbacks to a 56-33 win over offensively-challenged Vanderbilt before 11,526 fans.
"I thought for our Razorbacks, it was a good bounce-back game," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought our guys played with a lot of energy, a lot of focus. I thought defensively, we were really engaged. To me that's Arkansas basketball, excitement and not letting Vanderbilt get very comfortable. I was proud of our guys coming out and really establishing how we wanted the game to be played."
The 33 points was the lowest total by an Arkansas foe since the Razorbacks entered the SEC during the 1991-92 season.
"I am not into the record business, but at the same time I just thought our defense was pretty intense," Anderson said. "We did a good job of wherever their shooters were, we were in position and we didn't give up a whole lot of dribble penetration – especially in the first half. I thought that was big in this game here – we did not give up dribble penetration and at the same time we were able to recover to the shooters. Not only that, but when it went inside we were able to double up and were quick to the ball.
"I thought our quickness and athletic ability was a big difference in this basketball game," Anderson added.
Arkansas (10-5, 1-1) – coming off an embarrassing effort in a 69-51 loss at Texas A&M – forced Vanderbilt (6-8, 0-2) into a season-high 26 turnovers and the Commodores shot just 25 percent (10-of-40) from the field.
"Well, there's not a lot to say," Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said. "We got our tails whipped .... I was real disappointed in our play in just about every way. But you've got to give them credit. They got us rattled and it just kind of stayed that way the whole day. A lot of credit to them and lot of bad for us."
Powell - who was blanked at Texas A&M in arguably the worst game of his college career - came back with a purpose on Saturday.
He actually outscored Vanderbilt by himself 12-11 before intermission.
"I stayed up until about 6:30 the next morning watching like, all the other old games I have," Powell said. "One thing came to my mind, it was just every time I ended up playing good, I started off real, real fast. So I started off real early, asserted, and we always came out with a W. So that's what I tried to do here tonight."
His 8-of-9 field goal shooting tied Corliss Williams' 1993 effort for the best field goal percentage in an SEC game by a Razorback. "Early on Marshawn did the things he was doing all year," Anderson said. " He was making them find him, facing up as opposed to his back to the basket. We got him in the open court. His versatility is big to our basketball team. He can score and put it on the floor. Our guys did a good job finding him early on."
Anderson said he and Powell talked on the flight home from College Station.
"Coming back we had a chance to visit, but I am sure he did (not sleep)," Anderson said. "He did not even score and had two rebounds. It was like he was a non-factor in the game. And if he's one of your better players and a non-factor on the road, you are going to have some problems.
"So it was good to see him show up and play like he's capable of playing," Anderson said. "I thought his defense was great as well, touching a lot of basketballs, I think he had six six steals. More so his presence on the floor was huge for our team. He's our most experienced forward so it makes sense that he has some success that bodes well for our team."
Despite its great defense in the opening half, Arkansas led just 21-11 at the break. That's because while Powell was 6-for-6 from the field, his teammates were just 4-of-20.
Young got it rolling early in the second half by scoring his team's first 12 points and Arkansas ripped to a 45-18 advantage.
"BJ got in foul trouble early in the first half but in the second half we saw BJ doing the things he is capable of doing," Anderson said. "Best of all I saw BJ really engaged on defense, talking and orchestrating what was taking place out on the floor tonight."
Soon after that Powell missed his first shot of the game, but Michael Qualls' emphatic flush pushed Arkansas ahead, 50-24.
Hunter Mickelson had six points and three blocks for Arkansas and was the only other player with over 4 points for the Razorbacks.
Anderson gave Fayetteville native Fred Gulley - who became eligible at semester - his first career start in place of Mardracus Wade, who played just 12 minutes.
Gulley finished with 2 points, four rebounds, had one steal, one turnover and no assists in 20 minutes of action.
"It's based on practice and what they bring to practice," Anderson said. "Every now and then you have to juggle it just to make sure guys are focused in on the task at hand. I thought (Gulley) did a good job of directing and defensively he just does some good things that really helps our basketball team. There are a lot of things on defense and he is never in a hurry."
Rod Odom had 5 points to lead the Commodores in their second game in less than 48 hours.
Stallings, noting that Texas A&M went and won at Kentucky on Saturday, would not use that as a excuse.
"We certainly had a very hard-fought game Thursday night," Stallings said. "I mean, it was a tough game for both teams. I don't want to say that we had a hard time bouncing back, because that's not really what I believe. I could use that as an excuse, but that's not what I believe. I think we just got out-played."
Arkansas will return to action Wednesday night when it hosts Auburn at 7 p.m.
Photos by Marc F. Hennig
Michael Qualls attacks the rim as Vanderbilt defenders look for cover.
Kikko Haydar dives for a loose ball around Vanderbilt's Kedren Johnson, who he would later have a skirmish with in the first half.
Fred Gulley got his first start of the season on Saturday night.
BJ Young gets loose for a dunk as Rickey Scott looks on.
Young was lauded for his defense by head coach Mike Anderson.
Marshawn Powell came back strong with 17 points, 6 rebounds and a career-high 6 steals.