By Kevin McPherson

FAYETTEVILLE — Maybe the 10th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks were a bit banged up on Friday as several players dealt with minor injuries during the week, but they were spry and stifling defensively while jumping all over Fordham to force 30 turnovers on their way to an impressive 74-48 home win over the unranked Rams at Bud Walton Arena.

Playing once again without star freshman guard Nick Smith, Jr. (right knee management, precautionary measure) who led the team in preseason scoring, the Hoop Hogs not only got the mildly injured trio of junior wing Ricky Council IV, sophomore forward Trevon Brazile, and freshman guard Anthony Black on the court against the Rams after days of limited practices, but they got big contributions from each along with junior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis, senior big man Makhi Mitchell, freshman combo forward Jordan Walsh, and senior forward Jalen Graham.

As a top 7 unit in the rotation on Friday, that group spearheaded a 30-13 edge in turnovers (included 13 steals) for a 30-15 advantage in points-off-turnovers; a 38-29 win in rebounding (including a 16-9 edge on the offensive glass to claim a 13-2 advantage in second-chance points); an 11-2 win in transition scoring; and a dominant 54-20 margin in points-in-the-paint.

The 30 turnovers were the most forced by a Razorbacks team since the 2003-04 campaign, and limiting the Rams to 48 points was a far cry from an offense that scored 88 points in its season opener after averaging nearly 80 points per game last season.

“I thought that’s as good as we’ve played defensively,” fourth-year Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said as he also used “phenomenal” in describing his team’s defensive effort and execution. “That’s an Atlantic 10 team. They’re a team that I think averaged close to 80 points last year … Our length is unique defensively. I still think we have to challenge some shots a little bit more than we did … We have to front the post probably a little better as well.

“The 54 points in the paint, that’s kind of who we are. The thing I think is really important tonight is they had the defense as packed in as it possibly could be. What it does is allow you to get a running start to the offensive glass, and that’s one of the things we talked about at halftime. If the defense is packed in like that, we are flying to the O-boards. Anybody that plays us like that, you’re going to have to box somebody out that you’re not really guarding. We’ll work on it and we’re going to exploit people that guard us like that. I thought it was a great game for us to see that, but good luck trying to block us out if you’re going to be 10-toes in the lane.”

The Hogs erased an early 5-point deficit in building a 19-point first half lead before going up by 11 at the break, and they expanded their cushion to as many as 26 points multiple times in the last 20 minutes, including the final margin.

Council — he was part of a point-guard-by-committee approach — led Arkansas in scoring for a second consecutive game (15 points, a game-high 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals) while Walsh (12 points and 4 rebounds), Black (10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block), and senior forward Jalen Graham (10 points and 4 rebounds) also reached double-figures in the scoring department.

Brazile had 8 points and 8 rebounds in his second game playing off the bench. Mitchell had 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Davis finished with 7 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals.

All 14 Hogs who dressed out played, and freshmen Joseph Pinion and Derrian Ford each scored their first buckets as Razorbacks.

“Ricky, he had seven assists, I think,” Musselman said. “So, he did a great job of finding people, as well as being an offensive weapon. So, 15 and 7 for a guy that really hasn’t played any at the point guard position. I thought he did really well.”

Arkansas shot over 55% from the field in the second half to end the game a respectable 30-of-65 (46.2%), but they were an anemic 2-of-16 from 3 (12.5%). The Razorbacks hit 12-of-18 free throws (66.7%).

When the Hogs were not forcing turnovers defensively, they made it difficult for the Rams to get clean looks shooting the ball. Fordham finished 17-of-45 on field goals (37.8%), including 4-of-17 from 3 (23.5%). The Rams made 10-of-17 free throws (58.8%).

Fordham was led by all league guard Darius Quisenberry and freshman forward Elijah Gray, who each had 10 points. Quisenberry was held in check coming off a 20-point, 4-rebound, 3-assist performance in the Rams’ season-opening win over Dartmouth on Monday. Guard Antrell Charlton, the Rams’ primary ball-handler, coughed up 9 turnovers against the Hogs’ suffocating defensive pressure.

“We got back to a little bit more of our shadow game in the backcourt,” Musselman said. “Justin Smith was elite at it, and I think that we have two guys in TB (Brazile) and Jordan Walsh who can be great shadow players, as well. That’s the first time that we’ve kind of gone to the shadow defense at full court or three quarter’s court. Quisenberry and Charlton, those guys have some experience. To cause nine turnovers against their primary ball handler just doesn’t happen unless you’re doing something really well.”

Since a 30-point blowout loss at Texas to end the exhibition season in the last weekend of October, the Hogs have a collective 44-point winning margin over North Dakota State and Fordham in the first week of their regular season.

“Just us being locked in,” Council said of the key to the team’s fast turnaround. “We’re a young team. At the beginning, I felt like we were a little immature. And I feel like we’re just really locking in early to what Muss is saying. Texas, we didn’t play good at all. And we were locked in the next couple days after practice. North Dakota State we were locked in. And then today we made a big jump, especially on the defensive end.”

The Hoop Hogs improved to 2-1 all-time against Fordham. Both previous games were played at neutral sites (the Hogs won, 62-61, in the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage during the 1983-84 season, and they lost, 80-73, in the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla., in ’67-68).

Next up for Arkansas (2-0) is another home game against a mid-major opponent, South Dakota State, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, at BWA (SEC Network Plus).

The victory was No. 75 at Arkansas for Musselman, who improved to 17-0 in November games coaching the Razorbacks.

Musselman is now 75-28 overall as he begins his fourth season leading the program, which includes a 39-6 record against non-conference opponents. He has a 36-22 record against SEC teams, and a 6-2 mark spanning two NCAA Tournaments that culminated in back-to-back Elite Eight runs and back-to-back final national Top 10 rankings.

With Smith out, Musselman started Black, Council, Davis, Walsh, and Mitchell on Friday against Fordham, which was a different starting five than he employed in Arkansas’ 76-58 season-opening win over North Dakota State at BWA.

Fordham made its first three field goals to go up 7-2, but Arkansas’ sticky defensive pressure led to Rams turnovers in bunches. Collecting 11 steals as part of forcing 20 first-half turnovers, the Hogs used runs of 11-0 and 12-0 in outscoring Fordham 28-4 to take a commanding 30-11 lead.

But the Rams cobbled together a 10-2 spurt to pull within 32-21 at the break.

Council led the Hogs with 9 points in the first 20 minutes.

Arkansas shot 14-of-36 in the first half (38.9%), including 2-of-12 from 3 (16.7%). The Hogs made 2-of-5 free throws (40%).

Defensively, Arkansas limited Fordham to 8-of-21 from the field in the opening half (38.1%), including 2-of-9 from 3 (22.2%). The Rams were 3-of-6 at the foul line (50%).

The Razorbacks were plus-14 in points-in-the-paint (22-8), plus-12 in points-off-turnovers (22-10), and plus-9 in second-chance-points (9-0). They were minus-1 in rebounding (19-18) but plus-6 on the offensive glass (10-4). Arkansas had 8 first-half turnovers.