Hog hybrid

One of the SEC's premier freshmen will be visiting Thompson-Boling Arena tonight at 7 and - believe it or not - he doesn't play for Kentucky.

The player in question is part Wayne Chism, part Tyler Smith and all Marshawn Powell. Just ask Bruce Pearl.

"Powell will be on the first-team SEC All-Freshman team," the Vol head man said this week. "He's a combination of Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith put together. He's a really, really effective power forward - inside and out, offense and defense."

Arkansas relies heavily on Powell, a 6-7, 220-pounder who is distinguishing himself as a Razorback rookie. He averages 15.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and is coming off a brilliant 27-point performance last Saturday vs. Vanderbilt. Powell hit 12 of 21 shots, including a 3-pointer, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished out a couple of assists, blocked a couple of shots and made a steal.

"Marshawn had a very difficult game at LSU and responded very well versus Vanderbilt," Razorback coach John Pelphrey said this week. "He basically kept us in the game the first half.

"Marshawn had 21 points and six offensive rebounds in the first half. He scored from the 3-point line and got himself to the free-throw line. He had an outstanding game."

Originally from Newport News, Va., Powell struggled some early but has improved steadily since conference play began in January. In fact, he's averaging more points (16.0) and rebounds (6.8) in SEC play than he did in preconference play.

"He's not the same as he was when he first got here," Pelphrey said. "We certainly need him not performing like a freshman. You take a couple of games out of the mix, and he hasn't."

Pearl agrees, noting that "Powell looks like one of the top freshmen - and one of the top players - in the conference."

Powell has had to carry Arkansas's inside game lately because 6-9, 240-pound Michael Washington is hobbling. Washington averaged 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in 2008-09 but has been slowed by an ankle injury this season. He missed last Wednesday night's game with LSU and saw limited action Saturday vs. Vanderbilt.

"I would assume as time goes on he'll get healthier," Pearl said.

Even with Washington hobbled, Arkansas has been producing plenty of points. The Razorbacks rank third in SEC scoring at 74.6 points per games and they're hitting 35.3 percent of their 3s on the season.

"Offensively," Pearl said, "they're one of the better teams in the conference."

Especially when Marshawn Powell plays the way he did against Vanderbilt.

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