FAYETTEVILLE —Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell suffered through his most frustrating day as a Razorback a few weeks ago.
Powell was held scoreless in Arkansas’ Southeastern Conference opener at Texas A&M on Jan. 9. He managed two rebounds too, as foul trouble limited one of coach Mike Anderson’s most important players to 12 minutes in an 18-point loss.
So Powell vowed to use the disappointment as motivation as Arkansas prepared for the rest of SEC play. It’s obvious the junior has made good on that promise so far.
Powell is averaging 20.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.2 steals in Arkansas’ five games since, serving as the bright spot for a team struggling with inconsistency. While Anderson is urging others Powell must have help, it’s clear he serves as the focal point for the Razorbacks as they take another stab at solving their road woes against Alabama (12-7, 4-2) in Coleman Coliseum tonight.
"I just think it’s been a progression with Marshawn," Anderson said of his surge. "Just from the way he’s playing. The way he’s walking. The way he’s talking. Even when he talks to our guys, I mean, I think he’s having confidence in what he’s doing.
"Not only that, I think he’s feeling like, ‘Hey, I’m the most experienced guy here and these guys will follow.’ So I just like his body language at this point in time."
Powell, who was named a team captain earlier this month, leads Arkansas in nearly every major statistical category in SEC play despite his rough start at Texas A&M.
He tops the team in scoring (16.7 points), rebounds (6.3), field goal percentage (55.6), 3-point field goal percentage (46.2) and blocked shots (2.0) in conference games. Powell also ranks second in steals (1.8), behind guard Mardracus Wade (2.0).
Powell has posted two double-doubles in the past five games. He recorded an SEC-best 28-points against Auburn, a career-high tying 13 rebounds at South Carolina, and a career-best six steals against Vanderbilt.
It’s an impressive stretch for Powell, who has shown he is no longer feeling any issues from last season’s knee injury. His ability to score in a variety of ways has left the biggest impression on opponents as they prepare for the Razorbacks.
"That’s the type of skilled forward that I’d like to have on my team," said Mississippi State coach Rick Ray, who watched Powell score 17 points in 19 minutes against his team. "I just think he’s a really good player and he played well against us."
South Carolina coach Frank Martin called Powell a "first-team all-league player" who has become a difficult matchup for other SEC big men because of his ability to score.
Martin also said Powell’s demeanor on the court is impressive.
"When he makes a basket, he doesn’t run around punching his chest and doing all that stuff," Martin said. "He just plays. He’s done a great job understanding how to play within Mike’s system and they’re doing a good job with him."
But Powell’s recent success comes with a caveat.
He’s the only person playing at a high level for the Razorbacks, who will begin a difficult stretch of three games in six days against the Crimson Tide tonight.
Powell was the only player to score in double figures at South Carolina. The next closest was Rickey Scott (9 points). His 13 rebounds accounted for half of Arkansas’ team total (26), which was a big reason the Hogs were outrebounded by 16.
Powell was 9-for-14 from the field (64.3 percent) in the loss, while the rest of the Razorbacks were 12-for-47 (25.5 percent). He made his only 3-point attempt. But the rest of the team went 1-for-15 from long range in the 21-point loss.
"Right now, you look at our team, Marshawn Powell has probably been like a one-man wrecking force for the most part," Anderson said. "We have got to get other guys involved. …
"It’s really important for our other guys to kind of piggy back and really get in there and really help him from that standpoint. He can’t do it by himself."
Powell’s performance since the Texas A&M loss has been the big reason Arkansas remains in the middle of the SEC standings through six games.
So if others follow his lead, Anderson believes the Razorbacks can make up ground quickly because of Powell’s contributions on both ends of the floor.
"When Marshawn touches the ball good things have taken place for our basketball team," Anderson said. "He’s playing at a high level right now. It’s important we know he’s a guy that has been a tough matchup for people. And I think he’ll recognize when people are doubling him and he’ll create for others as well."
Arkansas (12-7, 3-3 in SEC) at Alabama (12-7, 4-2 in SEC)
When: Thursday at 8 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Radio: Razorback Sports Network
Satellite: Sirius 93, XM 190
Series: Arkansas leads 28-26
Last Meeting: Alabama 79, Arkansas 68 on 2/23/12
Coaches: Arkansas — Mike Anderson (30-21 in second season); Alabama — Anthony Grant (75-46 in seventh season)
Projected Lineups: Arkansas — F Hunter Mickelson (6-10, So., 7.1 ppg), F Marshawn Powell (6-7, Jr. 15.3 ppg), G Rickey Scott (6-3, Jr., 5.0 ppg), G Fred Gulley (6-2, Jr., 1.9 ppg), G BJ Young (6-3, So., 16.9 ppg); Alabama — C Moussa Guye (7-0, Jr., 1.4 ppg), G Rodney Cooper (6-6, So., 11.2 ppg) G Levi Randolph (6-5, So., 8.0 ppg), G Trevor Lacey (6-3, So., 12.1 ppg), G Trevor Releford (6-0, Jr., 16.1 ppg)