No. 16 Vandy 89, Arkansas 72

Vanderbilt shoots 65 percent in the first half and never lets up as the No. 16 Commodores rout Arkansas 89-72 before a season-high crowd of 14,146 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

It might as well have been Festivus at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.

That's the fictional holiday made famous on the television show Seinfeld that featured both feats of strengths and airing of grievances.

Jeffrey Taylor's 18 points led five Vanderbilt players in double figures as the No. 16 Commodores showed off their strengths while hammering the University of Arkansas 89-72 before a season-high 14, 146 fans.

Marshawn Powell's 27 points led the Razorbacks, whose fans were no doubt airing their grievances long before Vandy took a 73-48 lead with 8:29 left in what turned into a second game in a row that Arkansas did not lead at any juncture.

"We are just not playing very well right now," noted Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey, whose team lost its third straight after having a game-lead in the SEC West. "…Specifically there are teams shooting too high a percentage. The ball is going into the basket at an alarming rate…Teams are playing better than us. That is the reality."

Commodores head coach Kevin Stallings – who had never beaten Arkansas in Fayetteville - praised his team's play as it shot 65 percent from the floor in the first half and 53 percent for the game.

"I thought we just came out and got off to a very good start," Stalling said. "Offensively I just thought we seem very in sync and very together and very purposeful. We were able to get some baskets inside early and that kind of open up some things from the perimeter."

But he also admitted that he was stunned with being ahead by as many as 27 points on the road.

"You are always surprised to be up 20 on the road," Stallings said. "But we played well and that's how it happens."

Vanderbilt (22-6, 11-3) moved within a game of SEC Eastern leader Kentucky while Arkansas (14-15, 7-7) lost its third straight game and fell into a second-place tie with Ole Miss.

The Razorbacks travel to Tennessee on Wednesday and then host the Rebels on Saturday in a game that is likely to decided the West's second seed and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.

Arkansas – which shot just 37.8 percent from the field - was coming in off a 65-54 humbling at LSU, which was previously winless in SEC action.

"This week has been a tough week on us," Pelphrey said. "If you had told me that we could be in the mix going into the last week of the season, challenging for the West – coming into SEC play – I would pretty excited about that.

"Obviously we were and we are, but we are disappointed we haven't been able to play better," Pelphrey added.

A.J. Ogilvy added 14 points, John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley 13 each and Darshawn McClellan 11 off the bench for visitors.

"Vanderbilt is a really good basketball team and our concerns with really being able to guard them came true," Pelphrey said. "They have a great mix and got off to a great start there and offensively made it very, very difficult for us. Then we struggled to score at times on offense."

Rotnei Clarke had 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting and Michael Washington 11 points and 13 rebounds while playing 22 minutes.

Washington missed Wednesday's game with a badly sprained ankle.

"I thought Mike gutted it up there," Pelphrey said. "I am surprised he got 22 minutes in. It will be interesting to see what happens to him not after then."

Powell, who had just 5 points and 7 turnovers in a loss to LSU on Wednesday night, had 21 points by halftime on Saturday.

Arkansas was only down 45-35 at halftime thank to the effort from Powell.

"Marshawn just kind of put us on his back and carried us through the whole half," Pelphrey said.

Powell was 9-of-13 from the field in the first half and finished 12-of-21.

"Powell obviously killed us in the first half," Stallings said. "He was unbelievable. We did a much better job on him in the second half…The first half he was giving us the business, huh?"

Vanderbilt defended Courtney Fortson, Arkansas' leading scorer, extremely well.

Fortson was just 3-of-15 from the field and ended the night with 8 points, 8 assists and 5 turnovers.

"I thought we did a good job on Fortson for the most part," Powell said. "He is so hard to guard and so hard to keep in front. I thought for the most part we did okay with that."

The Commodores took an early 6-0 lead as the Razorbacks committed three turnovers on their first three possessions.

"It was bizarre starting the game with some turnovers and only ending up with 13," Pelphrey said. "We turned it over three or four of the first possessions and then we don't turn it over the rest of the night, but that kind of set the tone there starting out."

When Fortson scored to open the second half, Arkansas trailed just 45-37.

But Vanderbilt ripped off 5 straight points and never looked back.

Arkansas now faces the unenviable task of going to Tennessee, which downed Kentucky on Saturday.

"We are going to have to play better," Pelphrey said. "I think the biggest thing is defensively we are not where we were a week or so ago and then at times – a couple of things happen. One, because we are not able to get as easy stops and not able to get out in transition and score and get easy baskets, we are constantly trying to grind it out in the half-court. It is putting a lot of pressure on us to score and it is not happening. Defensively we are going to have to get better to have a chance in these last two games."


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