Arkansas is poised to make a strong run in the SEC West and much of the Razorbacks’ success can be linked to a freshman.
Kentucky freshmen John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins have received most of the publicity, but Marshawn Powell is the conference’s 11th-leading scorer (15.1 points) and 10th-leading rebounder (6.9) heading into the weekend.
He was named SEC freshman of the week after averaging 14 points and 7.5 rebounds in victories over Mississippi State and Ole Miss.
“Marshawn has been one of the best freshmen in the league this year and he is certainly deserving of this honor,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “He’s playing really good basketball right now and we are all very proud of him. He has a chance to be an outstanding player in this league. He comes to work every day and is very coachable."
Powell is the only Arkansas player to start all 22 of the team’s games. He combined with sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke, who is averaging 16.7 points, and senior center Michael Washington (13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds) to lead the Razorbacks until sophomore point guard Courtney Fortson returned from a 14-game suspension.
Fortson has dominated since rejoining the team, averaging 19.8 points in his eight games and giving Arkansas (11-11, 4-3) enough talent to make a strong push.
The Razorbacks have won three straight and have home games against Auburn and LSU before playing at Alabama on Feb. 13.
"I told you not to look at their record and not look at what they've done because Fortson makes them a totally different team," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "On a given night, they can beat anybody in the league. They have plenty of firepower. They have plenty of depth and they can be a very dangerous team."
No soft spots
Memphis dominated Conference USA under John Calipari, but he is finding life in the SEC to be slightly more difficult.
“It’s the same in that everywhere we go, we’re someone’s sellout. Everywhere we go, we’re getting everybody’s best shot. It’s exactly the same that way,” Calipari said. “The difference is in [the SEC], every team has a player or two who can break you down and score at will. They all have that guy.
“And the level overall, it’s kind of like they’re seven or eight deep here. [In Conference USA] it was always four or five, but when you got to their bench, that's where we got you. When you get into the bench in this league, you’re not getting anybody. It’s the depth that these teams have.”
On the ball
- LSU’s Tasmin Mitchell scored 13 points in Thursday’s loss to Tennessee to move past Chris Jackson into seventh place on LSU’s career scoring list. He has 1,856 points and remains on pace to become the third LSU player – Pete Maravich and Rudy Macklin are the others -- and 24th in SEC history to reach 2,000 career points.
- Patrick Patterson scored 12 points in Kentucky’s 85-75 victory over Ole Miss to move past Frank Ramsey for 26th place on Kentucky’s career scoring list. Patterson has 1,352 points.
- In case you missed it, Ole Miss’ Murphy Holloway had 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds in a loss to Arkansas last Saturday.
- Auburn has struggled the past few years, but has dominated its series with Alabama, winning six of the past seven meetings after the Tigers’ 58-57 victory last Saturday.
SEC leading scorer Devan Downey and South Carolina go on the road against No. 14 Tennessee at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN). Ole Miss and Mississippi State renew their rivalry when they meet in Starkville at 9 p.m. Thursday (ESPN2).