Powell had 19 of his career-high 33 points in the opening half and also had six rebounds and five assists in a virtuosio effort as the Razorbacks downed Oklahoma 81-78 Tuesday night before 9,501 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
B.J. Young added 10 points, a career-high eight assists and the go-ahead basket with 15 seconds left and Mardracus Wade also added 10 points for the Razorbacks (4-3) in a game that was nationally televised by ESPN2.
"I was proud of our guys because they had a lot of chances to really fold their tent especially when (Oklahoma's Steven) Pledger hit that three to put the up one," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "But we came back down and answered the call. That's what good teams, and we think we have a chance hopefully to be a good team, that's what they do."
Arkansas – which shot 55.9 percent from the field Tuesday night and had a season-high nine three-pointers (in 22 attempts) - fell 91-82 to No. 4 Syracuse at home on Friday and travels to No. 3 Michigan on Saturday.
"I thought it was big because while I keep telling them are getting better you want to see results," Anderson said. "I thought we played two good halves. With Syracuse we played pretty good the first half and then you saw a letdown defensively in the second half. I thought our intensity on defense was very good and we took our practice to the game. We had a very intense practice yesterday.
"It's a brutal schedule and all games are big," Anderson added. "But the next game is always going to be the biggest game."
After that loss to the Orange, Powell stepped up in the locker room to address each team individual by individual.
"We have got a bunch of young guys and everybody was hanging their heads and thinking the season is over because we lost one game," Powell said. "It is too long a season and we have plenty more games to play, plenty more big-time competition to play. We have plenty of chances to make ourselves better. So that is what I told them."
The Sooners (6-2) – whose only previous loss this season had been to Gonzaga – were led by Romero Osby's 22 points, Amath M'Baye's 14 and Pledger with 12.
Coty Clarke and Rashad Madden added eight points each for Arkansas while Hunter Mickelson had six points, five rebounds and two blocks.
The home team has won the game in each of this series' last six contests.
Although there was half the crowd there was on hand for Syracuse, Arkansas' fans got a pat on the back from their coach.
"What a great game, a great atmosphere," Anderson said. "Oklahoma – what can you say? They probably played one of their better games…Our fans got a chance to see two good teams really compete."
The Sooners lost despite shooting 52.6 percent from the field for the game and 64 percent in the second half.
"It was a ballgame where it seemed like we were trailing and not just quite able to get over the top there most of the night," Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger said. "Down anywhere it seemed like most of the night from four to seven to eight there in the second half."
After being quiet throughout most of the contest, Pledger buried a pair of 3-pointers in the final minute to give his team a chance to steal the win late.
His last one with 22 seconds left gave the Sooners a 78-77 lead, but as he turned and taunted the crowd Arkansas raced back down court 5-of-4.
That resulted in Young scoring with 15 seconds left to put his team back ahead 79-78.
"My teammates put me in a good position to score and it was just time for a big-time player to make a big-time play," Young said. "…It was just that time and luckily I made that play and we got the W."
Powell then grabbed a defensive rebound, cashed in two free throws and made a defensive play – all in the final two seconds – to preserve the win.
He described his mindset after the game.
"Just to give everything I got left in me to stop him (Osby)," Powell said. "Especially if the ball came my way. Luckily I got to it because he beat me initially off his first step. I had to gain ground to get back to it."
Powell was 11-of-17 from the field, made a career-high four three-pointers in six attempts and cashed in 7-of-8 free throws during the night.
"I was just shooting the ball, man," Powell said. "I just felt so comfortable and I decided before we started playing to just leave everything that was basically hindering me the last couple of games in the locker room and just play the way I play."
Anderson loved what he saw from Powell, who still claims he is still just 95 percent recovered from last year's season ending that came just two games into the season.
"I always said he is a versatile guy" Anderson said. "He can step in and step out. He had five assists as well. Marshawn was in a zone. He was in rhythm. And our guys did a good job of getting the ball to him at the right to him at the right time. That's what players do, step up and knock shots down. He wasn't hesitant."
Kruger also praised the effort of Powell, who was averaging 13.3 points coming into the game.
"He was fantastic," Kruger said. "He had a great game. He's such a good player in a lot of different ways. When he also makes threes, then all of a sudden that ability to drive the ball, you've got to get up and guard him a little bit more. Which we didn't do enough ... But he's a terrific player and he had a big night."
The Oklahoma coach – who picked up his 500th win last Friday night - was proud of the fight his team showed late.
"We had a nice run late, a couple of stops defensively, and Pledge's three put us up one," Kruger said. Then we gave up the lay up going right back the other way and couldn't quite finish up on top. But a good battle, we'll learn a lot from it. Arkansas did some nice things to win the ballgame, and we've got a few days here to work on getting a lot better."??
Young came into the game averaging a team and SEC-leading 21.4 points, but changed his game around on Tuesday night.
"I just had a different feel for the game," Young said. "I surveyed the defense and it was all packed in and other guys were hot tonight so I had to get the ball in their hands. It wasn't that tough. You just have to take it from game to game and know what to do."
Anderson also praised the work off the bench of Madden – who was replaced in the starting line up by freshman Dee Wagner –and walk on point guard Kikko Haydar.
Madden had four of his eight points late in the game and also had, three rebounds, two assists and two steals while Haydar buried a 3-pointer, had an assist and a steal in four key minutes in the second half.
"I thought those were big, big minutes he (Haydar) played," Anderson said. "When he came out there you could see the confidence from the defensive standpoint he gave us. We had the chance to get a cushion, we missed a little chippie layup but he just plays the game with everything like a little kamikaze guy. He is disruptive. That was huge for our team."
Powell and Pledger are old friends and battled to the finish on Tuesday night.
"That is one of my close friends from back home and we played AAU ball for years from like 14 to 17," Powell said. "I know that guy and I love that guy like a brother."
Pledger is glad to see Powell playing well after battling through injuries.
"I knew how he was going to play," Pledger said. "I knew he was itching to get back on the court, because he was out all last year. It's good to see he's still playing like that."
Arkansas was 12-of-16 from the free throw line, was out-rebounded 31-26, forced 17 turnovers while committing 13 and dished out 21 assists on its 30 made baskets.
"We just had seven assists (as a team) against Syracuse the other night," Anderson said. "So that tells you there was better ball movement."
Photos by Marc F. Henning
Mardracus Wade hit two 3-pointers, a pair of free throws and also got loose for this dunk as Rashad Madden looks on.
Marshawn Powell had a magnificent game.
BJ Young splits the Oklahoma defense for a basket.
Hunter Mickelson had six points, five rebounds and two blocks and defends Steven Pledger here.
Rashad Madden has four of his eight points late in the game.
Mike Anderson instructs his team.
Michael Qualls takes a jumper in front of Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger