Khalif Battle scored 21 points as a substitute and Tramon Mark added 16 as No. 14 Arkansas beat Alcorn State 93-59 in an opener Monday night.
Mark and Battle are both in their first season with Arkansas (1-0); Mark transferred from Houston and Battle from Temple.
The two each reached double figures by halftime, outscoring Alcorn State on their own 25-22 at the break.
The Razorbacks led by 24 after 20 minutes.
Alcorn State (0-1) could not cope with Arkansas’ size and speed on both ends. The Razorbacks forced 16 turnovers and turned them into 22 points, registering assists on 20 of their 28 field goals. They outrebounded the Braves by 18.
Trevon Brazile a preseason first-team All-SEC forward, played his first game since tearing his right ACL on Dec. 6. Brazile scored 13 points with six rebounds in his 22 minutes.
“Athletically, tonight, he rose above a lot of people,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “I’d say he’s 100% healthy and kind of fearless the way he’s jumping.”
Jeremiah Gambrell led Alcorn State with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
A DEEP BENCH
Musselman has made going deep into his bench a staple in his four previous seasons. Musselman brought in six experienced players from the transfer portal in addition to having three returning starters.
“We’re not going to play 13 guys in a half,” Musselman said. “Guys are playing their way into rotations and guys are playing their way out. That’s how it happens. We’ll probably shorten the rotation. When that is, I don’t know.”
Players from both teams came together for a heated exchange midway through the second half after a hard foul on Battle underneath the basket. With just under five minutes left, Musselman was whistled for a technical foul after a demonstrative outburst around halfcourt when his player was called for a foul. And with two minutes remaining, Alcorn State was charged with a flagrant foul as Joseph Pinion went up for alley-oop for Arkansas.
Arkansas has made three straight Sweet Sixteens and the Elite Eight in two of the last three years. To take the next step, Musselman wants his team to come together in the early-season games before the meat of SEC play, something Arkansas has struggled to do for most of the last couple years.
Arkansas will host Gardner-Webb on Friday. Alcorn State will host Xavier of Louisiana, an NAIA opponent, on Wednesday