FAYETTEVILLE – The Mike Anderson era of Arkansas basketball began with a resounding victory Friday night, as the Razorbacks defeated USC Upstate 83-63 to open up the 2011-12 season. Junior Marshawn Powell paced the Razorbacks with 19 points, and sophomore Rickey Scott had 11 points and seven rebounds.
A crowd of 13,093 was on hand to welcome Anderson for his debut as head coach, and the new-look Razorbacks started the season as many hoped they would – with speed. Arkansas pressed and ran the floor aggressively, jumping out to a 21-5 lead and making nine of its first 10 shots.
"You can’t ask for a better run to start the game," Anderson said. "We came out with a lot of emotion."
Nine different Razorbacks scored in the first half alone, and seven of them shot 50% or better from the field. Arkansas swarmed on defense, causing nine first half turnovers and holding USC Upstate to 28.7% shooting including 1-for-10 from the three point line.
Arkansas took a 40-21 lead, its biggest of the opening frame, with just over four minutes left in the first half off a pair of free throws from freshman Rashad Madden. The Spartans countered with a 7-1 run to end the period and make the score 41-28 at the half.
USC Upstate put together a run early in the second half as well, cutting the Arkansas lead to 52-42 eight minutes into the second half. The Razorbacks came right back with a 5-0 spurt highlighted by a three pointer by senior Marvell Waithe to swell the lead back to 15 points at 57-42. The Spartans never came within ten from that point on.
Coach Anderson commented that there was plenty for his team to work on, but it was nice to finally have the season underway.
"There’s been a buildup, and we’ve finally got a game under our belts," Anderson said. "I thought it was a good effort, but there are things to clean up."
Powell finished the game 6-for-8 from the field and 7-for-10 from the free throw line. He also grabbed five rebounds and added a block and a steal.
Senior forward Michael Sanchez played tough underneath for the Razorbacks, collecting nine points, four rebounds and two blocks. Junior guard Julysses Nobles led Arkansas with 30 minutes played, and had nine points and four assists. He also netted the first five points of the game to lead Arkansas in its fast start.
Arkansas’ highly touted freshman class showed promise in its first game of the season. Madden and Hunter Mickelson had eight and seven points respectively, and B.J. Young had five assists and added a high-flying one-handed dunk on a fast-break in the second half.
The Razorbacks finished with a shooting percentage of 51.7% for the game, and held USC Upstate to 36.8%. Arkansas also won the rebounding battle, grabbing 41 boards to USC Upstate’s 32. Arkansas forced 19 turnovers on the night.
The Razorbacks are back in action Wednesday, Nov. 16 when they host Oakland at 7 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena.