FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – To borrow a phrase from the hipsters, Dusty Hannahs and Anthlon Bell came up with a sick performance to down Evansville, 89-76, Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
Bell was just plain sick in the second half, making all four of his three-pointers after intermission before asking to come out to spend the final two minutes by a garbage box in the second row of the bench.
Hannahs led the Hogs with 23 behind a 10-of-10 night from the foul line, keeping the Purple Aces off balance with shifty moves to the paint as they over played his 3-point shot.
Hannahs and Bell combined to hit 8 of 11 from 3-point range to lead the Hogs to 69 percent shooting from behind the long-range line. Hannahs scored 23, Bell 21.
Bell said it was just a “one day deal,” and he expects to be fine. He followed a Jimmy Whitt blocked shot with a 3-pointer at the 2:19 mark for a an 87-74 lead and immediately pointed to the bench to come out. He left at the 1:52 mark and then threw up in the locker room.
Arkansas (4-4) fell behind 11-3 in the first six minutes, but found the range with a bust off the bench from Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Willy Kouassi.
“That second group brought us energy and our defense picked up,” said Mike Anderson, the Arkansas coach. “I think we've always been at our best when we have a strong bench. We are getting that now. Of course, it helps when you bring your leading scorer, in Dusty, off the bench.”
The Hogs caught the Aces on a 30-footer by Hannahs at the 8:51 mark of the first half, then took the lead for good, 26-24, on a Watkins drive at the 7:16 mark. The Hogs spurted to a 44-32 halftime lead when Hannahs scored 9 points in the final three minutes.
Evansville (7-2) kept clawing in the second half, but the Hogs never hit a scoring lull. They jumped to a 53-37 lead with 15:36 to play and the Aces never cut the lead to single digits.
“We are getting better,” Anderson said. “I don't know if that's our best, but we are getting more guys playing at a high level. We are getting better play from Jabril Durham and Willy Kouassi. With a bench like that, we are a good team.”
The Hogs were coming off a near miss at Wake Forest, a 89-86 loss.
“I told the team that games like this, after a tough loss, can be a defining moment,” Anderson said. “We got better in the Wake game and we got better tonight.”
Evansville coach Marty Barnes had seen all of the tapes of Arkansas. He tended to agree.
“They had lost some tough games,” Simmons said. “Yeah, they are (getting better). They lost tough games to Wake Forest and to Stanford. But I have a lot of respect for Coach Anderson and for the way they play. They are tough to play.
“They sped us up tonight. They disrupted us. We talked about it and you see it on tape. But you can't simulate it. They bothered us with their defense.
“They had a lot to do with how we played. They turned up the pressure. We did things too fast. We took quick shots and turned the ball over.
“On Hannahs and Bell, we didn't want to give up the three. We wanted them to put the ball on the floor and they did.”
Egidiju Mockevicius, 6-10 center, led the Aces with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Guard D. J. Balentine, averaging 22.3, was held to 16 points, just 5 in the first half when the Hogs were effective on their switching pressure defense.
Simmons liked what he saw of the Hogs' play at the point with Durham. The senior guard played 35 minutes with a solid line. Durham scored 9 points, with a team-high 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
“Durham plays about as hard as anyone we've seen,” Simmons said. “He's a winner. He's as competitive as anyone we've played. He competes until the end.”
Anderson was impressed, too. He seemed to apologize for jumping Durham in the first few minutes of the post-game talk.
“We got to the locker room and I got on to him about a turnover that could have helped them start a run late,” Anderson said. “Then I looked at the box score and he almost had a triple double. He did a lot of things for us.
“The thing about it, we've got Dusty and Anthlon on the wings and that gives some room for Jabril and Manny to get to the basket. That's tough.
“Anthlon, I think he was fine in the first half, but he was feeling a little sick in the second half. Then, he lost the pre-game meal when we got to the locker room.”
Bell (25) and Hannahs (23) are the SEC's top 3-point shooting tandem. Do they feel like it's a good combination?
“I think it's pretty good,” Hannahs said.
Bell added, “On any given night, I think we can light you up. One might be good one night, the other on a different night. And some nights we can both light you up and we have Jabril setting us up.”
The Hogs play host to Tennessee Tech at 7 p.m. Saturday. Attendance was estimated at 4,555.
Jimmy Whitt drives against the Purple Aces.
Jabril Durham pushes the ball on a fast break.
Anthlon Bell shoved this loose ball to a teammate.
Photos by Tony Reyes