FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas always seems to look its best at home, no matter how bad it has looked on the road.
The Jekyll-and-Hyde Razorbacks continued that trend Saturday, with BJ Young scoring 27 points in a 76-65 victory over South Carolina.
The win followed a lackluster effort in a loss Wednesday night at Georgia, and it improved Arkansas to 17-0 at Bud Walton Arena this season. It’s the most wins in one season in Fayetteville for the Razorbacks (17-8, 5-5 Southeastern Conference) since the arena opened in 1993.
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Of all the quality teams that have played in Fayetteville since then, this one has been the most surprising in coach Mike Anderson’s first season. Arkansas has played most of the season with its best player, Marshawn Powell, out with a knee injury. The Razorbacks suited up only eight scholarship players –including four freshmen — Saturday.
“I’m very proud of them,” Anderson said. “With all the things that have taken place with this team, the adversity that’s taken place — new coach, new system, freshmen coming in.
“For these guys to withstand that and be where they are, they’re in the hunt for something. I don’t know what it is, but I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Arkansas’ 1993-94 national championship team was 16-0 and held the previous mark for home wins. Several former Razorbacks were at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday to watch the game and a documentary afterward on that team and former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.
Richardson was also on hand, and he had to like what he saw out of the Razorbacks after a frustrating 81-59 loss at Georgia. Arkansas fell to 0-8 away from Fayetteville with that the loss, but it looked much more like the team that owns home wins over three ranked teams this season.
Young’s 27 points were his best since scoring a season-high 28 in a loss at Connecticut on Dec. 3.
“I think it’s just we’re a young team and we’re trying to learn the things we’ve got to do here and take that to the road,” Young said. “I don’t think we’ve done that yet, but it’s a work in progress, and I think we’re going to get it eventually.”
The Gamecocks (9-15, 1-9), meanwhile, had no answers in losing their fifth straight and ninth in their last 10. They committed 21 turnovers and were outscored 46-30 in the paint.
Damontre Harris had 12 points to lead South Carolina, while Malik Cooke added 11 in the loss.
The Razorbacks led 25-17 in the early going, with Young providing a spark off the bench. The freshman had 16 at halftime. His total for the game was his best in an SEC contest this season and his most since scoring 24 in a win over Mississippi State on Jan. 7.
South Carolina used a 10-2 run to tie the game at 27 after a dunk on the fast break by Eric Smith. However, the Gamecocks’ turnovers began to have an effect after that, with Arkansas scoring 11 straight points to end the half.
“It’s pretty simple, really,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “We had the stretch at the end of the half where we did not take care of the ball.
“The problem when you play Arkansas with the way they play … is not that they can turn you over, but that their turnovers lead to baskets.”
Arkansas finished with 25 points off the Gamecocks’ turnovers.
“We had some turnovers at the end of the half, some turnovers we should have controlled, and they were able to score off them,” Cooke said.
Young capped the run with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer, and the Razorbacks extended the run to 17-0 to start the second half — taking a 44-27 lead after a Rashad Madden basket on the break.
South Carolina was unable to get closer than seven points after that.
Even Arkansas backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell took part in the fun. The 6-foot-4 sophomore, who came out for basketball after the Razorbacks’ Cotton Bowl win over Kansas State, played 9 minutes in the first half with forward Michael Sanchez out with a shoulder injury.
Sanchez’s injury left Arkansas with only eight healthy scholarship players. But Mitchell — who was recruited in basketball by LSU — had six points and four rebounds in the first half. He finished with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting.
“He brought great energy to the game,” Arkansas forward Devonta Abron said. “He’s in basketball shape now.”
Hunter Mickelson finished with 11 points for the Razorbacks and fellow freshman Abron added 10. Arkansas was 30 of 59 from the field (51 percent), a far cry from the disappointing loss to Georgia in which it shot 37 percent.