FAYETTEVILLE - The largest crowd of the season showed up Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena and were rewarded with the sight of some fresh faces playing well and their team's best overall performance of the young season.
Rotnei Clarke had a game-high 20 points and backcourt mate Jeff Peterson added 15 points, five assists and three steals as Arkansas downed Oklahoma, 84-74, before 10,047 fans - including former hoop standouts Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Clint McDaniel.
The Razorbacks (4-1) shot 50.7 percent from the field, knocked down 23 of 26 free throws and forced the Sooners (3-4) into 22 turnovers.
"I thought this was a team victory," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "Everybody had a chance to impact it and be a part of it. I thought we made some plays that kept us in the lead and then down the stretch we were pretty good shooting the ball from the free throw line.
Arkansas shot 38 percent from the floor overall and just 3 of 21 from 3-point range in a 70-65 overtime loss to UAB Friday night in North Little Rock.
But the Razorbacks were much better on Wednesday night as 56.7 percent of their shots connected in the opening half.
They also knocked downed 5 of 11 3-pointers in the game and cashed in 16 of 17 free throws in the second half.
"If we are going to be a good team, we have to take good shots with good people taking them at the right time," Peterson said. "I think we grew up from one game to another."
Clarke hit a trio of 3-pointers making him the fastest Razorback to 200 in a career.
"It's a cool accomplishment," Clarke said. "Glory to God. There are a lot of guys that have played here and I guess that is a cool accomplishment, but we have got a lot of other games to play and that is really what is important to me."
Peterson was 8-for-9 from the charity line during the game. Ironically, the other miss from the line by the Hogs was by sharpshooter Clarke, who was 3-for-4 in the game.
"I thought the guy really stepped up there and focused in and did a great job," Pelphrey said before cracking a joke about Clarke. "We've just got that one guy on our team that can't shoot free throws. We'll just have to work with him a little bit extra."
Peterson, fellow junior college transfer Marvell Waithe (8 points, six rebounds) and freshmen guards Mardracus Wade (8 points) and Rickey Scott (5 points and three charges taken while starting) – the four additions to this season's squad - all had their best game as a group.
"I thought Mardracus played as well as he has played and I thought Rickey got in there and took some quick charges," Pelphrey said.
Peterson, who redshirted last season after transferring from Iowa, controlled the game when he was at point guard.
"I think Jeff's got some experience with that and I think he is pretty close to 100 percent (after a hamstring injury)," Pelphrey said. "Obviously he did some good things out there. I think our guard depth is something that we really try to talk about and persue."
Sophomore forward Glenn Bryant (7 points, three rebounds, three blocks), sophomore guard Julysess Nobles (6 points) and senior Jemal Farmer (5 points) also contributed.
The Razorbacks, who led by as much as 66-49 midway through the second half, won despite being without injured starter Marcus Britt and getting limited action from sophomore forward Marshawn Powell.
Britt was injured in practice on Tuesday.
"Marcus was probably about 50 to 60 percent," Pelphrey said. "He sprained his foot, his toe – someplace. Yesterday he finished practice and got treatment before the game, but just said he didn't feel good. So we used our bench."
Powell played 10 minutes in the first half, but only two after intermission and finished with a pair of points and a couple of rebounds.
"I think he has good days and bad days," Pelphrey said. "I thought he really tried there in the first half and he just wasn't really – well, he just didn't really feel great in the second half. We were able to get away with it, but we don't like that. That's really going to the wall too much. We need him to get healthy and 100 percent. Obviously we are not there yet."
Oklahoma has now lost four straight, starting with a 12-point loss to Kentucky followed by losses to highly-regarded Virginia and Division II Chaminade – all in the Maui Invitational.
The stats didn't add up for Sooners head coach Jeff Capel, who led the program to a 30-6 record two seasons ago.
His team had a 42-23 rebounding advantage.
"Congratulations to Arkansas and I thought they did a good job attacking on both ends of the floor – driving the basketball and then with their defense," Capel said. "You give them credit and I thought Rotnei played a very patient game, which allowed him to be pretty efficient shooting the basketball."
"We had some good moments and we had some stretches where we played well," Capel said. "If you look at a stat sheet at the end of the game and you see a team has almost as many offensive rebounds as the opponent has total rebounds, you win the rebounding battle by 19, you shoot 47 percent from the field, you would think that team won the basketball game. But our inability to keep a guy in front of us and value the basketball is what got us into that."
Andrew Fitzgerald led Oklahoma with 18 points and 13 rebounds while reserve guard Calvin Newell added 15 points and six assists.
Cade Davis, the Sooners' leading scorer coming in at 16.7 points per game, had just one point in the first half and 9 for the game.
"We were able to get into the game a lot that we had practiced and prepared for with Cade Davis," Pelphrey said. "I know he made a couple of shots there late, but for the most part we were able to slow him up."
Oklahoma scored the first 4 points of the game, but Arkansas responded by scoring 18 of the next 24.
That was a run capped by Waithe's fast break lay-up off a Wade steal that made it 18-10 with 14:03 left in the first half.
The Sooners clawed back to within 25-24 on Steven Pledger's basket at the 8:30 mark.
The Razorbacks responded to that challenge by racing out to 41-30 lead – their largest lead of the night to that point – when Bryant jammed one home.
Oklahoma did cut it to 43-37 on Newell's 3-pointer with 14 second left in the half.
Peterson drove for a basket, but it was waived off due to a charge with 0.03 left in the half.
The Razorbacks pushed that lead to 54-40 early in the second half after Wade hit two free throws after being floored by an elbow that landed Cameron Clark an intentional foul.
"We had a couple of guys get bloodied up out there tonight, but stayed with it," Pelphrey said.
The closest the Sooners got after that was 7 points.
Arkansas will host Troy on Saturday - a team that loves to get it up and down the floor. The Trojans have former Razorback Levan Patsatsia, who is averaging 13.8 points per game.
"I thought we played well enough to win and now we have a very short turnaround to get ready for a very extreme style of play that will be difficult," Pelphrey said.
Photos by Marc F. Henning
Delvon Johnson scored 8 points for the Hogs.
Delvon Johnson slams against the Sooners.
Jeff Peterson scored 15 points with five assists and three steals.
Jemal Farmer made his only 3-point attempt.
Rotnei Clarke nails a runner in the lane.
Rotnei Clarke fights to the basket.
Rotnei Clarke finishes after a steal.
Rotnei Clarke draws a foul.
Mardracus Wade scored 8 points.