Arkansas 79, Northwestern (LA) State 61

BJ Young

BJ Young flirts with a triple-double as he scores 26 points, grabs 13 rebounds and dishes out 7 assists while Mardracus Wade adds a season-high 17 points and Hunter Mickelson a career-high 13 boards in Arkansas' 79-61 win over Northwestern (LA) State Saturday night before 9,476 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansassophomore guard B.J. Young went knock, knock, knocking on a triple-double's door Saturday night.

He came up just three knocks shy.

Young had 26 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and 7 assists as the Razorbacks whipped Northwestern (LA) State 79-61 before 9,476 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

"He was phenomenal," Demons head coach Mike McConathy said. "I mean 13 rebounds and 26 points and 7 for 8 from the free throw line. That's a pretty good night's work. I bet they keep him around, won't they?"



Junior guard Mardracus Wade scored 14 of his season-high 17 of his points in the opening half and had six assists and four steals while sophomore center Hunter Mickelson had eight points, a career-high 13 rebounds and four blocks.

Marshawn Powell added nine points and six rebounds and Coty Clarke seven boards in what was a fourth straight win for the Razorbacks (8-4).

Arkansas blew the game open with a late 20-8 run after leading by just 47-43 early in the second half.

"A lot of times teams are with us the first three quarters of the game," Anderson said. "But our depth, our bench, our conditioning, hopefully it pays off for us and tonight we were focused from the start of the horn until the end of the horn. That's a step for this team. Because you look back on the games we played earlier in the year we would be up on teams going down the stretch and somehow we seemed to let them come back in it whether I go to the bench and sub guys or even have the starters out there. But I thought tonight this was finishing the game off and I thought we did that."

Despite all the offensive numbers, it was limiting the visitors – who came into the game second in the nation in scoring at 86.3 points per game – to a season-low 61 points and 27 percent shooting that was at the forefront of Anderson's mind after the game.

"I can't say enough about our defense," Anderson said. "…You have got to remember Northwestern is a team averaging almost 88 points a game. They played against some pretty decent teams. So for us to hold them - to get into the 60's I think they needed a foul and a 3-point play. So that's a compliment to our guys being in there defensively.

"Some nights the offense is not going to be there but the thing you can really hang your hat on is your defense," Anderson added. "And our defense created some opportunities for us on the offensive end."

Arkansas, which shot 45 percent from the field, came into the game tied for fifth in the country in scoring so it was thought a score-fest might break out.

But it turned into more of a foul-fest at times as referees Mike Thibodeaux, Lee Cassell and Nathan Quick called 40 fouls, 26 of which were on the home team.

That resulted in the visiting Demons going 26-of-42 from the line while the Razorbacks were going just 10-of-13.

"They were pushing people and sending guys down the floor so that means we fouled a lot," Anderson said. "That's the negative I am going to come away from this game with. We put them on the line too much but you look at the whole scope of the game I thought our defense was the difference in the game.

"They shot 27 percent from the field," Anderson added. "Most times you have teams that bad from the field, we end up beating them pretty good. But tonight because of the free throw line - they shoot 42 and we shoot 13, that's where the difference lies."

McConathy thought the numbers were like that because his team was aggressive.

"I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that we tried to attack, going to the bucket when we could get into situations and driving lanes and we did a good job with that, but we just don't make free throws. That's a hard part of the game and I really don't understand that because it's free."

Anderson loved what he saw on the boards from Young, Mickelson and Clarke, who had seven defensive rebounds despite being plagued by foul trouble.

"BJ was rebounding in traffic going down the stretch, pushing the ball coast to coast whether he got to the basket or getting other guys involved, getting Hunter dunks and all that stuff," Anderson said. "When a big guy rebounds and you start rewarding him it makes that guy go out and do other things."

Anderson noted that Young can complete his offensive game by adding in that facet.

"It's in him," Anderson said. "Our defense was pushed back playing a lot of matchup so it's imperative that we rebound. He is around the ball a lot and hats off to him. That's part of continuing to round the game off. He is showing the facet of being a distributor and a scorer and now you start adding in the rebounding factor because some of the better guards in the country rebound the basketball. BJ is athletic enough that he is capable of doing it."

Young joked that he and Mickelson both thought getting 13 rebounds each would be the way to ring in the New Year, but admitted it was out of necessity.

"We needed to help because Marshawn Powell was in foul trouble and we had to go get the rebounds," Young said. "Coach told the guards to go help the bigs crash and it just happened to come to me a lot tonight. Hopefully I can continue to do that throughout the season."

Young's career best going into the game was 11 last season against Utah Valley while Mickelson's career high in boards going into the game was eight last season against Grambling State.

"We played pretty tough defense and made them take a lot of jump shots and I don't think they shot very well so that, of course, led to rebounds," Mickelson said. "Our guys are pretty tough. We hit people and blocked out and we able to get the rebounds and head out."

Wade, who was 7-of-8 from the field, carried Arkansas in a first half that ended with the Razorbacks on top 36-29.

He had 14 points a week ago in a win over Robert Morris and has now been very productive in two of the last three games after struggling out of the gate this season.

"If you notice the last couple of games he is starting to put games together," Anderson said. "To me that's what it is all about, consistency. Our guys are doing a good job of getting the ball to him in the open but I think his defense, is what I am more proud of because I think he can be one of the better defensive guards in our conference. But it has got to be a mind-set. Tonight you saw and I saw that defense creates offensive not only for him but the team."

It was 57-51 when Arkansas completely shut the door by going on a 10-1 spree.

"It was a six-point game and they went on a 10-1 run and we just didn't get it done,' McConathy said.

He was still proud of the way his Demons (5-4) – which lost a close game at Oklahoma and LSU and played Texas A&M hard early – competed in the game.

"I was very proud of our kids to come in here and compete against a very well coached team that plays unbelievably hard," McConathy said. "We told our kids that if we could play them five-on-five, we would have a great opportunity to be in the game.

"…You can't guard them when they have got two on one or three on one and on the other side, we couldn't make free throws and couldn't get anything out of it when we got a turnover and got the ball up the floor," McConathy added. "I thought they did a fabulous job. Their zone was a really a problem for us – especially in the second half when they just kept pushing us further and further out."

James Hublin led Northwestern State with 16 points and 10 rebounds while DeQuan Hicks and Jalen West added 10 points each.

The Demons' coach was asked to compare Arkansas and Texas A&M, who open SEC play in College Station on Jan. 9.

"I don't think we played poorly tonight," McConathy said. "I think y'all had a lot to do with what we did. I think at A&M (a 67-53 loss) we gave up a lot of buckets in transition to them against a team that is not a transition team. To compare them, they are just big, bulky, strong team.

"I think it will be a good ballgame like when we played Oklahoma (a 69-65 loss)," McConathy added. "I think they are going to try and slow it down and control tempo, but Coach Anderson and y'all have enough weapons that you can create some real problems for Texas A&M because of the fact of getting the ball in transition and making things happen."

Arkansas won't have a game for a week – meaning that it will have played just four games in three weeks before heading into SEC action.

"It would have been nice for us to play again next week but now having 18 games in our conference, man, you have to schedule as smart as you can," Anderson said. " Maybe next year we will have some games pushed back during this particular time. But it is what it is. We aren't the only one that is having that break. But it would be nice to have some games to try to get the rhythm back, especially to get ready for conference play."

Arkansas is not in school right now so the Razorbacks will get in plenty of two-a-days next week.

"Oh, yes," Anderson said. "Yes we will. We have got a lot of time. We have a lot of time."

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