FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | Arkansas responded to its only loss in the last 25 days by getting back into the win column.
Freshman Marshawn Powell scored 16 of his game-high 26 points in the first half as the Razorbacks defeated South Carolina 92-79 on Wednesday night. Courtney Fortson added 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Fortson decided before the game to issue a challenge to Powell, who had scored only 19 points over Arkansas' last two games.
"Courtney told me I was due for a 20-point game," Powell said. "He said it a couple times.
"I just feel like I delivered, like I did what I'm supposed to be doing the whole time. I feel ready now. I'm going to go hard, 100 percent."
Powell had 10 of Arkansas' first 27 points, made 10 of his 16 shots and grabbed eight rebounds for the Razorbacks (14-12, 7-4), who won five straight before losing Saturday at Alabama and extended their lead in the Southeastern Conference Western Division to a game over Mississippi State.
Sam Muldrow scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds for South Carolina, which lost for the third time in four games. SEC scoring leader Devan Downey scored 28 points for the Gamecocks (14-11, 5-6), but the 5-foot-9 senior needed 28 shots to get them.
"We did a really good job on him," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said of the defenders who guarded Downey, led by 6-3 junior Marcus Britt. "We held him to a mere 28."
Arkansas led 40-33 at halftime after Britt stole the ball from Downey in the backcourt and converted an open layup with 10 seconds left.
"That was my fault," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "I was changing the play, and (Devan) looked over. Nobody picks Devan Downey's pocket."
South Carolina closed to 43-38 on Ramon Galloway's 3-pointer, but Arkansas responded with a 17-1 run. Powell jumped high to throw down a one-handed, fast-break alley-oop pass from Fortson and put Arkansas ahead 51-39, drawing roars from the crowd of 13,175.
Fortson had a role in Arkansas' next four baskets as the Razorbacks stretched their lead to 21 points. He found Delvon Johnson — who had a career-high 10 rebounds — for a dunk and knifed through the lane for a reverse layup. Fortson then ripped the ball away and fed Powell for a fast-break dunk. His deep 3-pointer over Downey made it 60-39.
"This felt great," Fortson said. "To be doing what we've been doing here at the end of the year feels great."
Downey missed 11 of his first 14 shots before his back-to-back 3-pointers halted Arkansas' momentum. Downey had 20 points after halftime, but the Gamecocks didn't get closer than 11 points.
The Razorbacks, who got 13 points from Rotnei Clarke and 12 from Britt, have scored more points in a game only once this season — in a 97-94 home loss to Morgan State on Nov. 24.
"In the start of the second half, they got easy basket after easy basket, and that was just too much to overcome," Horn said.
With eight points, senior Mike Washington became just the fourth player in Arkansas history to record 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks. The 33rd Razorback to reach 1,000 points, Washington battled foul trouble against the Gamecocks and didn't reach the milestone until hitting a hook shot with 11:35 left.