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FAYETTEVILLE - Beating a 3-4 foe from a power conference might not sound like much, but the SEC West will take whatever it can get on the hardwood these days.
So Arkansas picked up its division’s signature win to this point on Wednesday night, downing Oklahoma 84-74 at Bud Walton Arena. The win improved the SEC West to 22-14 on the young season.
While the football division is strong, the basketball side of things has been anything-but this year. The division’s teams have suffered embarrassing defeat after embarrassing defeat this year to the likes of Nicholls State, Samford, Campbell, Florida Atlantic, Dayton and St. Peter’s.
The Razorbacks (4-1) haven’t been immune to tough losses, falling 70-65 in overtime to Alabama-Birmingham last Friday in North Little Rock. But the Blazers have made postseason noise in recent years, so that loss fails in comparison to some others in the west.
All the while, the league’s eastern division is collectively strong. Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Vanderbilt and Georgia are all expected to compete for NCAA Tournament bids this season, and are a combined 30-7 thus far.
The win over the Sooners was a fairly convincing one for the young Razorbacks. Despite being outrebounded by nearly double, Arkansas controlled the pace of the game by hitting 51 percent of its shots and scoring 28 points off 22 turnovers.
The Razorbacks committed just 12 turnovers in the win and hit 23 of 26 free throw attempts.
Oklahoma led briefly in the game’s first minute, but never afterward. Arkansas at one point stretched its lead to 17 points in the second half and never let the Sooners within seven points after the intermission.
It was as dominant a performance against quality competition as the SEC West has seen this season and leaves the Razorbacks tied with Mississippi State for the best record early in the season.
If Arkansas can continue to build on wins like Wednesday night’s and return injured players to full-strength, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think a season of rebuilding might just yield some hardware in the end.