Everything the remaining incredulous fans were waiting for, they finally got it.
Arkansas looked as dominant as they have all season in dispatching Sam Houston State on Thursday night in North Little Rock, 90-56. Arkansas has now won eight straight games, the first time the Razorbacks have done that in Mike Anderson’s five-plus seasons in Fayetteville.
Thursday night, Arkansas (11-1) scored points in bunches. Shot well from deep. Defended with vigor. Moses Kingsley had his offensive breakout performance. Whatever was missing through the team’s first 11 games for even the most pessimistic of fans came through at Verizon Arena.
Kingsley was the best sign. The Preseason SEC Player of the Year had 17 points on 5 of 9 shooting and he added seven rebounds. For the first half, when the game was still somewhat in question, he was the star. He scored 13 points in the opening 20 minutes then let everyone else score the game-breaking buckets in the second half.
That’s when the Bearkats lost it. Sam Houston State went more than seven minutes of the second half with a field goal. Arkansas went ahead and stretched its lead to 29 points by the time only nine minutes remained. From the 16:28 mark until 7:14, the Bearkats went 1 of 15 from the floor. A lot of that was their own poor play. Some of it was Arkansas’ defense. Overall, Arkansas forced Sam Houston State into 31 percent shooting and 3 of 23 from range.
Meanwhile, the homecoming for Daryl Macon and Anton Beard went swimmingly. The two former Little Rock Parkview players (Beard graduated from North Little Rock) scored 17 (Macon) and 16 (Beard), respectively. Dusty Hannahs, also from Little Rock, had just six points. It was the first time all year he had failed to score double-digits.
Now comes the hard part. Arkansas hosts Florida a week from Thursday – December 29 – to start SEC play. That’s where the NCAA Tournament hopes will live or die. But for now, Arkansas couldn’t have asked for much better a start to the season.
Stat line of the game
The defense. Anderson never misses an opportunity to talk about it with the media. He’s a true believer Arkansas’ defense is what makes the team go.
Made sense Thursday.
Not so much a turning point, but a dagger: Arkansas’ 7-2 run to start the half forced a Sam Houston State timeout and built the Razorbacks lead to plenty-good-enough 17-point advantage, 48-31.
Truth is, Arkansas was never in danger Wednesday night.
Sam Houston State
Thursday, December 29