By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Michael Sanchez had never made a 3-pointer in his career. He had only attempted two of them, with the last coming in the 2009-10 season.
So guard Mardracus Wade, half joking, told the senior before the game if he had a good look he should load up and let one fly Wednesday night. That’s exactly what happened.
“I was happy for him,” Wade said. “He made it. It was kind of funny at the same time.”
Arkansas’ long-range shooting — beginning with the first 3-pointer of Sanchez’s career — played a big role in its 97-64 win against Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday night.
The Razorbacks (5-1) knocked down a season-high 11 3-pointers in front of an announced crowd of 6,700 in Bud Walton Arena, leaning on strong perimeter shooting and a disruptive defense to hand the Delta Devils (1-6) their most lopsided loss of the season.
Wade led the Razorbacks with a career-high 20 points, which included 4-for-6 shooting from long range. Guard Julysses Nobles added 16, going 3-for-5. Six different Razorbacks combined to make 11 of 22 on 3-pointers.
“We were taking good shots and hitting them,” Nobles said. “As we kept hitting them, we kept shooting them and they were falling.”
Arkansas made eight of its 3-pointers during a first half in which the Hogs shrugged off any notion of looking past the Delta Devils toward Saturday’s game at No. 8 Connecticut.
Sanchez’s surprising shot gave the Razorbacks a 7-0 lead. Nobles made two straight a little later, then Mardracus Wade knocked down his first to give the Razorbacks an 18-3 edge.
“We started off with energy,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “The first group really got us going. We were making shots, sharing the basketball, making the extra pass. ...
“The focus was there. I was really impressed with our focus at the beginning of the game.”
Arkansas did have to survive a spurt from Mississippi Valley State, which played at Notre Dame, North Carolina, South Carolina and DePaul during its first six games. The senior-oriented team put together a 12-0 run to cut Arkansas’ advantage to 20-17 midway through the half. But Wade ended the stretch with a basket, sending the Hogs on an 11-0 spurt.
The sophomore went on to score 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half, helping the Razorbacks take a 47-30 lead to the locker room. He made 6 of 7 shots in the half.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Anderson said. “He puts the time in, so he’s having an opportunity. If you notice, the shots he’s getting he’s in rhythm. We’re making that extra pass and we’re getting him in positions where he can knock the shots down. Good players, they knock it down.”
Arkansas never let the Delta Devils crawl closer than 16 points in the second half, rolling to its third straight win. It also was the 15th straight nonconference win in Bud Walton Arena, dating back to Jan. 5, 2010.
Wade and Nobles were among five players to score in double figures Wednesday. Freshman Davonta Abron scored 13 points, while guards Rickey Scott and BJ Young added 11 apiece as Arkansas eclipsed its season high for points and shot a season-high 59.3 percent.
But Anderson said the Razorbacks also were solid defensively, too, forcing 15 turnovers with its pressure. It included a 35-second shot clock violation and a backcourt violation. MVSU’s mistakes led to 20 points.
“I thought our pressure was great. It was cumulative. It affected them on their shots,” Anderson said of MVSU, which shot 31.7 percent in the loss. “Their shots were a lot shorter there at the end. The pressure is not about just stealing the basketball. It’s about disruption. We did an excellent job of that.”
Arkansas now can look forward to its first road trip of the season — and a daunting one at that. The Razorbacks will play the Huskies in the SEC/Big East challenge on Saturday.
It’s the first game against a ranked opponent this season and the first leg of a two-game road trip. Arkansas is eager for the opportunity after taking care of MVSU.
“You’ve got to look at the opponents you’re playing now,” Nobles said. “You can’t look past them and try to go to a big team. So we just came out there focused and tried to prove a point, try to tell everybody we’re ready.”