FAYETTEVILLE — Reeling off first-half runs of 11-0, 11-0 and 14-0, the Arkansas Razorbacks ran away with a 52-23 intermission lead en route to a 104-69 rout over the Tulsa-based Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles on Tuesday night at Walton Arena.
Coach Mike Anderson’s Razorbacks take a 9-2 record into a brief pre-Christmas break before reassembling over the weekend to prep for their nonconference game Dec. 27 at Bud Walton against California-Bakersfield, their last game before their Dec. 30 SEC opener against Tennessee at Walton.
First-year coach Paul Mills’ Golden Eagles of the Summit League fall to 4-10 and travel Thursday to play Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Senior starting guard Jaylen Barford, 8 of 9 from the field including 2 of 3 treys, led Arkansas with 18 points, four assists and five steals contributing to ORU’s whopping 27 turnovers to Arkansas’ nine.
Off turnovers, Arkansas outscored ORU 42-9 while the Razorbacks’ bench outscored ORU’s bench, 42-11.
“To our guys’ credit they came out with great energy and it started on the defensive side of the ball,” Anderson said. “We made a couple of shots early on and it started to get into our full court pressure defense and it affected them. They only had two guards who could really handle the basketball and that was our mindset to make those other guys handle the basketball and so I think it went to our favor early on.”
Did it ever, ORU Coach Paul Mills said.
“You can’t mimic in practice what they do,” Mills said of Arkansas’ pressure. “So it became a situation where I think they smelled blood in the water and they took advantage of the opportunity to create offense via the turnover.”
Arkansas’ depth exacerbated ORU’s chagrin.
“They had 42 points coming off the bench,” Mills said. “That’s unheard of.”
That Arkansas off the bench boost proved way too high for the Golden Eagles to fly.
“Our depth was the difference in the game,” Anderson said. “42 points coming off our bench. Great, great energy on defense and offense and we did a good job against their zone.”
Arkansas freshman reserve guard C.J. Jones scored 15 points while senior guards Anton Beard of North Little Rock and Daryl Macon of Little Rock Parkview scored 14 each with freshman forward Danel Gafford of El Dorado scoring 12 and freshman forward Darious Hall of Little Rock Mills scoring 11.
ORU’s Emmanuel Nzekwesi’s 22 points led all scorers but his five turnovers rendered him the most victimized Golden Eagle.
Guard R.J. Fuqua scored 19 ORU points while ORU forward Javan White grabbed a game-leading 16 rebounds.
Never leading Tuesday night, the Golden Eagles did tie it 8-8 at 15:57 before Anton Beard’s fast break bucket on a feed from Jaylen Barford ignited Arkansas’ first 11-0 first-half run.
Five reserves, sophomore guard Jones, four first-half threes on five shots for 12 first-half points, sophomore forward Adrio Bailey, freshman forward Darious Hall, and senior forward Trey Thompson and eventually senior forward Arlando Cook, 3 of 4 for six first-half points, figured prominently during the first half that Arkansas stole securing 16 first-half turnovers outscoring the Golden Eagles, 25-2 on first-half miscues.
Among Arkansas’ starters, freshman big man Gafford, 10 points, and senior guard Barford, nine points and four steals, tallied the biggest first half.
The Razorbacks would have routed the Golden Eagles by even more had they been remotely on par on first-half free throws, just 2 of 9 but still outscoring ORU’s 0 for 2 from the first-half free throw line.
Arkansas started the game’s second verse same as the first.
By 15:54, a Barford trey had Arkansas up 70-30.
ORU did mount a 9-0 run broken by a Bailey bucket for a 72-39 lead at 13:12.
Anderson called a timeout at 11:11 with Arkansas cut back to its 29-point halftime lead at 72-43 and the Hogs accelerated back to a higher gear to head home for pre-Christmas.
“They were dialed in and I worried they’d be dialed out because I had just released them (to go to their homes) after the game,” Anderson said. “But to their credit I thought they got a little bit better.”