By Robbie Neiswanger
By Robbie Neiswanger
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas provided another glimpse of its new life without leading scorer Marshawn Powell when it played Utah Valley in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night.
If the performance is any indication of what’s to come, Arkansas is headed for hard times.
The Razorbacks beat the Wolverines 67-59 in front of an announced crowd of 7,200, but needed a late 13-1 run to come from behind and survive.
Arkansas (3-1) shot 33.3 percent from the field (20 of 60) in searching for a reliable scoring threat with Powell sidelined for the season with a knee injury. Freshman guard B.J. Young filled the role Tuesday night, leading Arkansas with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Julysses Nobles added 14 points, while Mardracus Wade scored 11.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson acknowledged the struggle without Powell afterward, but said the win sure felt better than the alternative.
“We’re certainly happy to get the win,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but at the same time we played a game down in Little Rock and it wasn’t a thing of beauty against Houston and we came on the wrong end of it. You can always learn in a game of this type.”
Powell was injured during practice last Thursday when a teammate fell into his leg during preparation for Houston. The Razorbacks did not announce the extent of the injury until Tuesday afternoon, but an MRI confirmed he had “torn ligaments” in his right knee.
The junior is out for the season and will undergo surgery soon. Powell’s rehabilitation process is expected to last six to eight months.
“It’s tough,” Wade said. “But we’re not going to rely on Marshawn. He’s out. He was one of our best. Now we’ve got to work with what we have.”
Powell, who averaged 19.5 points and 6 rebounds in Arkansas’ first two games, sat on the bench and watched the Razorbacks struggle without him.
Devonta Abron earned his first start in Powell’s place and enjoyed some early success, scoring six of his eight points on 3 of 4 shooting. He and Young (9 points, 4 of 7 shooting) led the Razorbacks during a first half in which they shot 32.3 percent (10-for-31).
“It was rough,” Wade said.
Fortunately, the Razorbacks weren’t alone.
Utah Valley (3-1) struggled just as much from the floor in the first 20 minutes, shooting an identical 32.3 percent. The first half featured more turnovers (21) than field goals (20).
“Offense comes and goes and it sure went (Tuesday) for awhile there,” Anderson said.
It didn’t get much better for either team in the second half. Arkansas did use a 6-1 run to build a 46-39 lead with 10:12 remaining, but the Hogs began to struggle and the lead evaporated.
Utah Valley missed shots, but crashed the boards, corralled rebounds and got second-chance points en route to building a 58-54 lead. The Wolverines — led by Geddes Robinson (12 points, 15 rebounds) and Ben Aird (12 points, 14 rebounds) — outrebounded Arkansas 51-41.
“Their best offense, Utah Valley, was to shoot it and go get it,” Anderson said.
Nobles helped Arkansas respond with a three-point play on the other end, triggering the run that wrapped up the win. Wade also played a key role by drawing charges on consecutive possessions and knocking down a 3-pointer that gave Arkansas the lead for good with 2:50 left.
The Razorbacks closed strong on the defensive end as well, finally limiting Utah Valley’s second-chance points. The Wolverines didn’t make a field goal in the final 4:58.
“I never really panicked,” Young said. “I just knew we had time as long as there is time on the clock then we have a chance to win. … It was a fight. But at the end we came out with the win.”