Powell’s perimeter play opens floor for Arkansas

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Marshawn Powell is leading Arkansas in scoring and 3-point shooting after missing most of last year with a torn ACL.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Marshawn Powell is leading Arkansas in scoring and 3-point shooting after missing most of last year with a torn ACL.

— One thing Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell could do with a basketball last season after undergoing surgery on his right knee was shoot it.

Arkansas coach Mike Anderson previews the Razorbacks' upcoming game against Robert Morris.

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So Powell shot. A lot.

“I was just shooting until I couldn’t shoot any more,” he said. “Until I couldn’t feel it, to be honest.”

Powell is feeling it now when he shoots, especially from three-point range. The redshirt junior is shooting 52.4 percent from the field, including 50 percent (11 of 22) on three-pointers.

After struggling with foul trouble in losses to Arizona State and Wisconsin in Las Vegas, Powell has made 31 of 53 shots (58.5 percent) against Syracuse, Oklahoma, Michigan and Alcorn State. He hit 8 of 12 three-pointers the past three games.

“His release is so consistent now,” Arkansas junior guard Rickey Scott said. “He’s just money.”

Alcorn State Coach Luther Riley, whose Braves played Missouri and Mississippi State before losing 97-59 at Arkansas on Saturday night, said Powell is a matchup problem.

“Powell is so deadly because he not only can play inside, he can come outside and hit the three,” Riley said after Powell scored 18 points in 19 minutes on 7-of-9 shooting against the Braves. “It makes it tough to defend him.”

Powell had shot 49.4 percent from the field in 62 games as a Razorback coming into this season, but was at 22.4 percent from three-point range (15 of 67). He was 0 of 2 on three-pointers in Arkansas’ first two games last season before tearing knee ligaments and missing the rest of the season.

“The only thing I could do was stand in place and shoot the ball,” Powell said of the initial rehabilitation process. “So I learned my touch, and now I’m shooting it with confidence.”

Especially on three-pointers.

“I’m very, very confident,” Powell said. “You can tell by the way I’m shooting. Until I start missing, I’m going to be shooting it.”

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said Powell has the OK to shoot a three-pointer whenever he wants.

“Without a doubt,” Anderson said. “I want guys to take good shots. If you’re making it, it’s a good shot. It’s something he has in his arsenal. It’s something people are giving him, and it showcases his versatility.”

Powell hit three-pointers early against Oklahoma and Michigan, which helped him get baskets inside later in the game. He finished with a career-high 33 points against the Sooners and had 18 against the No. 2 Wolverines.

“The thing I like about it is that he’s not just predicating his game on three-point shooting,” Anderson said. “He’s taking it when it’s there, and at he same time he’s scoring inside for us and getting to the free-throw line.”

Powell, who is averaging 16.6 points per game, also is scoring well off rebounds. He had four offensive rebounds against Alcorn State, including a ball he caught after his shot was blocked.

“He presents problems for people,” Anderson said. “You have got to figure out how you’re going to play him. It helps us now from the standpoint we can really space the floor. We don’t have to clog the offensive lanes up, but at the same time we’ve got a guy we can get it to that can make some things happen.

“And it’s not necessarily just his scoring. Marshawn is a very, very gifted passer as well.”

Powell has 15 assists this season, with a career-high five against Oklahoma.

“His maturity in the game, people are getting a chance to see that,” Anderson said. “I think we hopefully are starting to take advantage of it more and more.”

Scott said Powell’s outside shooting draws defensive attention away from the lane and has helped open the floor for the Razorbacks.

“That gives us more room to attack,” Scott said.

Arkansas junior guard Fred Gulley, who transferred from Oklahoma State in January, wasn’t sure what to expect from Powell as a shooter.

“I didn’t get to see him play too much previously, but since I’ve been here he’s been lighting it up,” Gulley said. “So it’s something I’ve come to expect from him.

“Sometimes I’d come in early and he’d already be here putting up shots. It’s a skill you’ve got to perfect, and he’s been putting in the time, and that’s showing up now.”

Powell said opponents already have started to give him more attention on the perimeter.

“I just have to stay patient,” he said. “You’re going to get the look you want eventually with the way we play. We play so hard and so fast that it’s easy for me to get lost.”

Powell said he knows shooting 50 percent from three-point range for the season will be tough.

“But I feel like I’m shooting it really well,” he said. “If I stay in my routine, I think I’ll still be shooting a good percentage at the end of the year.”

Sports, Pages 22 on 12/19/2012