FAYETTEVILLE — Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy’s opening sentence during his postgame press conference was the only thing needed to describe what happened to his team in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night.
“Freight train, buzz saw, whatever space you’ve got to fill,” Kennedy said.
It was simple. And very accurate.
Arkansas turned in one of its most memorable performances in a Southeastern Conference game, overwhelming Ole Miss 110-80 win in front of an announced crowd of 16,508 on senior night. The Razorbacks (21-9, 10-7 in SEC) continued their late-season dash toward an NCAA Tournament berth with their most impressive outing this season, snapping a six-game losing streak to the Rebels with a barrage reminiscent of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson’s best teams.
The 110 points set the Razorbacks’ single-game scoring mark for a conference game in Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas also made 17 3-pointers in the win, which tied the program’s single-game record against a conference opponent.
More important, the Razorbacks took another important step toward the postseason. Arkansas won its sixth straight game and improved to 8-1 since opening conference play 2-6.
“It would be nice if I said senior night was scripted like that, but it wasn’t scripted like that,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “Ole Miss is a lot better than what took place (Wednesday). But I think we had something to do with that.”
Sophomore Anthlon Bell led the shooting spree on senior night, scoring a career-high 23 points. He went 8-for-11 from the field — including 7-for-10 behind the 3-point line — despite playing only 12 minutes in the rout.
“Once I just hit the floater and then I came down and hit on in transition it just felt good the rest of the night,” Bell said. “It’s like the rim was just wide open.”
But Bell wasn’t alone. Everyone got a chance to chip in during what proved to be Arkansas’ sixth-largest win in an SEC game.
Five Arkansas players scored in double figures, including senior guard Mardracus Wade (18 points). Twelve Razorbacks scored and six knocked down at least one 3-pointer in a game Arkansas led by as many as 46 points in the second half.
“Me and Anthlon and Coty (Clarke) always joke around and call ourselves the flame gamers because we’ve got flamers – we can shoot the ball,” Wade said. “It just kind of like clicked all at once and that is what we need and hopefully it can carry over game after game and we can continue to build on that.”
Wade started early, scoring five points in the opening minutes. He was in the starting lineup along with three other seniors (Clarke, Rickey Scott and Fred Gulley).
But the rout didn’t begin until Arkansas trailed 17-16 with 11:27 left in the first half.
Bell came off the bench and immediately put on a dazzling display, scoring 14 points in a three-minute span. It included a 4-for-5 effort from behind the 3-point line, which helped the Razorbacks quickly expand their lead to 37-25 with 6:35 left.
“The way it was falling for him, was flowing for him, I think if he had just thrown it up backwards it would have went in,” Anderson said. “It was one of those nights.”
Said Bell: “I guess you could say that.”
Arkansas went 9-for-16 behind the 3-point line in the first half with Bell (4-for-6), Wade (2-for-4), Kikko Haydar (1-for-1), Clarke (1-for-1) and Ky Madden (1-for-2) getting involved. The hot streak went hand-in-hand with an Arkansas defense that forced 10 first-half turnovers, harassing the Rebels (17-13, 8-9 in SEC).
It helped the Razorbacks score in a variety of ways en route to a 56-34 halftime lead.
The 56 points was Arkansas’ highest-scoring half in SEC play this season. It also equaled the second-best half of the season next to only the 62-point performance in a nonconference win against Texas-San Antonio on Jan. 4.
“The one thing that Arkansas is very, very good at and most especially in this building, and we knew it, was creating live-ball turnovers,” Kennedy said. “We were in the game, making a couple of shots, battling, both teams competing. Then we had three or four possessions where they created turnovers in our backcourt, which led directly to baskets. Anthlon Bell then came in and just changed the game.”
The barrage only intensified in the second half.
Arkansas continued to score at will, quickly expanding its lead from 22 points to 38 within the first five minutes of the second half. Arkansas hit the 100-point mark for the fourth time this season with 8:12 remaining and the lead climbed to as high as 46 points before Anderson and the Razorbacks stepped off the accelerator.
Wade made Arkansas’ 17th 3-pointer when he knocked down a shot with 4:24 left to give Arkansas a 106-69 lead. The Razorbacks also made 17 3-pointers against Auburn in 1995 and again in 1998.
Arkansas had 27 assists on 34 field goals, turned the ball over just six times, had 71 bench points and outscored the Rebels 27-9 of turnovers. It was an overwhelming performance en route to its first win against Ole Miss since the 2010 season.
“I think they got tired hearing it,” Kennedy said of the losing streak.
Arkansas also had a chance to top its program record of 117 points in an SEC game, but let the final few minutes turn into a celebration. Anderson put his five seniors on the floor for a stint together, then pulled each off the court to a rousing ovation.
It was the first time any of Arkansas’ seniors had beaten Kennedy’s team.
“Me and him had a relationship coming out of high school. He recruited me,” said Wade, who fell two points shy of his career high of 20. “So I really just wanted to beat him so bad because I never did. (Wednesday), we got it done.”
Anderson said it couldn’t have been accomplished any better as Arkansas continues its sprint to the finish line in the regular season.
“You follow the blueprint that we’ve had for many, many years,” Anderson said. “When I played for Coach Richardson, when I coached with him, when I went to UAB, Missouri, it was the same. Our teams tend to really start coming together in late February and move on into March, and here we are. And it’s happening.”