Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
ARKANSAS MEN’S BASKETBALL:
Road roughens as Powell fouls
Marshawn Powell (left) has struggled to stay out of foul trouble in road games this season.
FAYETTEVILLE If Marshawn Powell gets in early foul trouble at Auburn on Wednesday night, look for Arkansas’ road struggles to continue.
Arkansas (14-9, 5-5 SEC) has shown it still can lose away from home - and at times look bad doing it - even if Powell plays a lot. The 6-7 redshirt junior forward had 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in 37 minutes in the Razorbacks’ 75-54 loss at South Carolina, 18 points in 32 minutes in an 80-67 loss at Michigan and 16 points in 34 minutes in a 76-64 loss at Ole Miss.
But if Powell can’t get untracked because of early fouls, or fouls out late, it’s been a sure sign the Razorbacks are doomed.
Arkansas is 0-5 in out-of state games in which Powell either got two fouls in the first half or fouled out. In those losses to Arizona State and Wisconsin in Las Vegas and at Texas A&M, Alabama and Vanderbilt, Powell is averaging 5.2 points and 19.4 minutes, including going scoreless in 12 minutes in the Razorbacks’ 69-51 loss to the Aggies in the SEC opener.
“It changes us a lot,” Arkansas sophomore guard BJ Young said of Powell’s foul problems, “because he helps on defense, he talks, he’s a leader on the court. And he can score the ball when we need other scoring options.”
Powell played 17 minutes and fouled out with five points Saturday when the Razorbacks lost at Vanderbilt 67-49 as the Commodores ended their four-game losing streak and avenged a 56-33 loss at Arkansas on Jan. 12.
“I think you could tell when he got in foul trouble things kind of wavered a little bit,” Arkansas sophomore forward Hunter Mickelson said. “He’s definitely the guy with the most experience on the team. He’s got great leadership. Those are two things we definitely need, especially on the road, so when he’s out of the game or in early foul trouble it’s pretty tough.
“But we should be able to come together on the road in times like that. We’ve got to play better and be a better team.”
Powell is averaging 14.7 points and a team-high 5.4 rebounds and shooting 52.6 percent from the field. He had 28 points and 11 rebounds in 44 minutes when the Razorbacks beat Auburn 88-80 in double overtime Jan. 16 in the teams’ first meeting this season at Walton Arena.
“It’s no secret he’s a big part of our offense, and our defense and our team in general,” Arkansas junior guard Kikko Haydar said. “When he’s not on the court, it hurts. So we need him on the court.”
Powell wasn’t available for interviews before Monday’s practice because he was talking to Coach Mike Anderson from the time he stepped onto the court.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the conservation centered on how Powell can stay out of foul trouble.
Powell got three fouls in the first half at Vanderbilt. Anderson took him out after two fouls, then put him back in before halftime counting on Powell not picking up his third, but he did.
“Some of the fouls were kind of ticky-tack reaching fouls,” Anderson said. “Move your feet, as opposed to moving your hands. I think that’s something he has to be aware of, and knowing his importance to our basketball team to put himself in that position.”
Powell went a stretch of eight games - between losses to Wisconsin and Texas A&M - during which fouls weren’t a major issue for him, but he’s fouled out in three of the past four games, including a home victory over Tennessee.
“As you move in games, the sense of urgency picks up,” Anderson said. “Sometimes you want to do something so bad. But he’s got to be smart enough to know when and when not to [play so aggressively], especially with some of the fouls he’s getting.”
Junior guard Mardracus Wade said the Razorbacks can play more effectively on the perimeter when Powell is drawing defensive attention inside.
“When he’s not in the game, they [opponents] don’t double down as much on the other guys, so they can guard us on the perimeter,” Wade said.
“When he’s is in the game, they double down and it allows us easier cuts to the basket, easier looks.
“When he is out of the game, it kind of throws us out of sync.”
Arkansas has at least nine games left with eight conference games and the SEC Tournament, so there’s time for Powell to fix his foul problems. There’s also time for the problems to continue.
“As time goes on, we do have to learn to play without Marshawn,” Wade said, “in case that happens again.”
Up next ARKANSAS AT AUBURN
WHEN 8 p.m. Central on Wednesday WHERE Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
RECORDS Arkansas 14-9, 5-5 SEC; Auburn 9-14, 3-7 TV Comcast Sports Southeast RADIO Razorback Sports Network
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/12/2013