An Arkansas bench that outscored its foe 40-2 on Tuesday night got even stronger on Saturday.
Anthlon Bell and super-sub Dusty Hannahs each had 21 points and sophomore reserve Trey Thompson 10 points and 7 rebounds in his first significant action since an injury on Thanksgiving Day as the Razorbacks roared past Tennessee Tech 83-57 before 6,842 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
Moses Kingsley added 10 points, 13 rebounds and had 8 of his team’s 13 blocks on the night while Jabril Durham, who is fourth nationally in assists, dished out 10 on Saturday night.
"I like where our team is going," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "They are trending in the right direction. We talked before the game about keeping teams from scoring points and we had been giving up like 78 I think over the year and a high field goal percentage.
"Tennessee Tech came here averaging almost 80 or so points and we held them to 57 so that is a tribute to our defense. They only scored 21 points in the first half.
"I thought we played team basketball and that is what you are seeing with this team. Guys coming off the bench and giving us some quality minutes."
Arkansas had 21 assists on 31 field goals.
“That's sharing the rock, that’s sharing the love," Anderson said. "I think most good teams have those kind of players.”
A 17-0 run in the first half that turned a 21-17 lead into a 38-17 one for Arkansas was powered by Hannahs and Thompson and helped the Razorbacks (5-4) win back-to-back games for the first time this season while ending a six-game winning streak for Tennessee Tech (7-3).
The Razorback bench outscored the visitors' 38-7 on Saturday night so that means it has outscored its last two foes by a total of 78-9.
"I thought it was our defense, guys coming off the bench bringing great energy - Manuale (Watkins), Trey, Willy (Kouassi), those guys kind of spearheaded that," Anderson said. "And then we eventually started knocking shots down. When you start knocking shots down, getting to eh basket and we got to the free throw line and that enabled us to get into our defense.
"I thought our pressure defense really disrupted them and in the second half I thought fatigue became a factor."
Kingsley had no idea that he had blocked so many shots.
"I honestly didn't know I had that many blocked shots," Kingsley said. " I thought I had maybe four or five. I didn't know I had that many at the end of the game. I just tried to protect the rim as much as possible. That's what Coach emphasized before the game. That's what he's emphasizing the last couple of weeks of practice, so that's what I tried to do tonight."
Tennnesee Tech head coach Steve Payne question his team's decision to try and attack the rim so muchwith Kingsley waiting.
Arkansas shot 50 percent from the field in both halfs - 16-of-32 before intermission and 15-of-30 afterwards - while also making 7-of-15 3-pointers and 14-of-21 free throws.
Tennessee Tech shot just 33.9 percent (20-of-59) from the floor, 7-of-24 from 3-point range and 10-of-20 from the free throw line.
Thompson, who played just a few minutes Tuesday, was 5-of-7 from the field on the night, had two blocks, two assists and a steal while playing 26 minutes. He only played 33 minutes as a freshman total.
" It feels real good to be back," Thompson said. "I'm finally getting into the rhythm of things, putting 40 minutes together, or however many minutes I play. I'm just trying to go out and do all the dirty work, doing what coach needs me to do. It feels good."
Anderson was certainly happy to see the 6-10, 255-pound forward being successful in extended minutes.
"We saw him really come in and have a big first half as well as Dusty Hannahs," Anderson said. "But I think our defense was the catalyst. We protected the rim.
"We talked about our defense making you attack the basket, but you have got to have a rim protector back there and to have 13 blocked shots by different guys - Moses had 8 of them, Willy (Kouassi) has a couple as well as Trey so that means our guys were in position, rotating, fixing things on defense, rebounding
"...And as they blocked those shots, they were keeping them in play and so we were able to score off of that."
The Razorbacks have hit 16 of their last 28 3-pont attempts with Bell and Hannahs leading the way.
Arkansas will now take a break for finals and won’t return to action until Saturday night when it will face Mercer in North Little Rock.
That game will mark the return of suspended North Little Rock native Anton Beard, who started the last 16 games at point guard for Arkansas last season.