FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Marshawn Powell knew the Razorbacks needed him after a slow start against Missouri last Saturday.
The junior delivered, scoring 24 points in a 73-71 win and was recognized by the Southeastern Conference for his efforts Monday.
Powell was named SEC Player of the Week after averaging 22 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games, helping the Razorbacks beat Auburn and Missouri. It is the first SEC Player of the Week honor Powell has earned in his career.
“Powell is really, really good,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said after the Missouri win. “As a matter of fact if you noticed we were going through him in the second half. Not only going through him, but he was delivering.
“He makes the game a lot easier for a whole lot of guys.”
Powell, who was blanketed by Missouri defenders early, scored 15 of his 24 points in the second half. It included a stretch of 10 straight, which helped Arkansas erase a four-point halftime deficit to take their first lead of the game.
“Marshawn carried us when we needed points and rebounds,” Arkansas guard BJ Young said after the Missouri win.
Powell’s big performance against the Tigers followed a 20-point, 9-rebound effort in Arkansas’ xx-xx win at Auburn on Wednesday night. He fought through some early foul trouble on the road and played well down the stretch, helping the Razorbacks earn their first win outside the state of Arkansas this season.
The strong week marked the first time Powell has scored 20 or more points in consecutive games for the first time since his freshman season.
“My team needs me, so I’ve got to step up,” Powell said after the Missouri win. “My team tells me all the time, one on one on the block it’s hard to stop me. So that’s what I went to, and I just tried to grind it out and get points for my team.”
Powell will try to add to his streak when the Razorbacks (16-9, 7-5 in SEC) play Georgia (12-13, 6-6 in SEC) in Bud Walton Arena on Thursday.
The Newport News, Va., native is averaging 15.2 points a game, which ranks second on the team behind guard BJ Young (16.5) and is fifth in the SEC. Powell also leads Arkansas in rebounding (5.4 rebounds a game), field goal percentage (52.3) and 3-point field goals (24). He was elected a team captain earlier this season.
The NCAA’s weekly Ratings Percentage Index was released Monday and Arkansas made a significant jump after the 2-0 week. The Razorbacks moved from No. 94 to No. 77 in the RPI, which plays a part in selecting NCAA Tournament teams.
Arkansas now has three wins against teams ranked inside the RPI top 50 after beating Florida (No. 3), Oklahoma (No. 17) and Missouri (No. 38). The Razorbacks are 3-3 overall against the top 50 and 5-7 against the RPI’s top 100.
Arkansas has plenty of chances to improve its postseason resume through the rest of the regular season. Four of its final six opponents are currently in the RPI top 100 – Florida (No. 3), Missouri (No. 38), Kentucky (No. 44), Texas A&M (No. 75).
“Every game is critical and a big game going down the home stretch,” Anderson said during Monday’s SEC Teleconference.
It took a long time, but Arkansas finally broke through to grab a road win at Auburn last week. Its next opponent hasn’t had as much trouble away from home.
Georgia, which is 6-6 in conference games, travels to Bud Walton Arena with a 3-3 record on the road in SEC play. It includes last Saturday’s overtime loss at Ole Miss.
The Bulldogs are one of five conference teams with three wins on the road this season, joining Florida (5-1), Kentucky (4-3), Ole Miss (3-3) and Alabama (3-3).
“Our kids have accepted the challenge,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We have improved as a team and have been pretty stable away from home. Our defense has been pretty consistent all year and that has been a great stabilizer for us.”
Arkansas announced that its game against Kentucky on March 2 has sold out.
It is the second sellout of the season for the Razorbacks, who announced a sellout crowd of 19,004 for the Missouri game last Saturday. Arkansas beat Kentucky 77-76 in overtime the last time the Wildcats played in Fayetteville in Feb. 2011.