Despite not exactly shooting the lights out in the first half, the University of Arkansas basketball team made more than enough shots Tuesday night to down an offensively-challenged visitor while besting its start of a season ago.
Jonathon "Pookie" Modica had 19 points and Olu Famutimi 10 – many of the spectacular variety - as the Razorbacks moved to 2-0 on the young season with a 64-46 win over Grambling before a pre-Thanksgiving crowd of 11,964 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas won its opener last season under then new head coach Stan Heath, but then lost the next four outings en route to a 9-19 campaign that was the worst in 30 years at the school.
"We won on the scoreboard and that was about it," said Stan Heath. "We have got to play better, take a lead and put teams away when we get up the way we did."
Ronnie Brewer added 8 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, including one dish that led to a spectacular one hand catch and finish by fellow freshmen Famutimi that started a 10-0 UA spree and signaled the beginning of the end for the Tigers (0-2).
Famutimi went high to catch the pass and angled it toward and into the basket, a play that would be the spark that turned a 51-33 lead into a 61-33 one with 5:59 left in the contest.
"I saw Olu on the wing and tried to look away," Brewer said. "I knew if I put it anywhere near the rim that Olu could go get it."
Paul Haynes had a game-high 24 points for Grambling, which shot just 28.6 percent from the field and didn't make a field goal until midway through the first half.
Still it was a better offensive showing than in its opening game when Georgetown hammered Grambling 83-36.
Arkansas, which got off to a sizzling start while taking a 21-3 lead by the time Vincent Hunter cashed in a lay-up with 10:44 left before intermission, would shoot just 37.9 in the first half, but 57 percent in the second half to get to 46 percent for the game.
The Razorbacks squandered their big early lead by scoring only six points during the rest of the half and watched as Grambling got its first field goal with 10:17 remaining in the first half and began to cut into its deficit.
The Tigers got within 27-18 by halftime and then when Paul Haygood bombed in a 3-pointer to open the second half, the visitors had pulled within 27-21.
"What they did was stall the ball, let (the shot clock) run down and that is when we broke down on defense," Heath said. "We have got to stop letting the other team's style of play dictate how we perform."
It was still just 36-25 when an all-freshmen fast break – a Hunter rebound and outlet to Brewer who ended up dishing to Famutimi for an athletic layup - got the home team headed back in the right direction.
Arkansas forced 19 turnovers, but committed 16 of its own. The Razorbacks connected on 14-of-16 free throws , but were outrebounded 34-33.
"The only thing we really did well was shoot free throws," Heath said. "But when we got that big lead we totally relaxed and went to cruise control. It was let me get a shot up and I'll defend a little bit, but I'm not going to defend that long. That has got to get better."
The latter two's combination on the aforementioned break then opened it up and let Arkansas cruise in before a plethora of turnovers at the end allowed Grambling to make the score more respectable.
Arkansas returns to action Saturday when it travels to North Little Rock's Alltel Arena to face Jacksonville State in a 1:05 p.m. contest before returning back home to host ORU the following Wednesday.
Brewer said the Hogs lost focus after breaking on top by 21-3.
"We got up so much that we took things for granted and didn't think they could hit any shots," Brewer said. "But they started hitting some and we had to dig in again. Grambling isn't a team that scares you, but you have to get up for each team."
Grambling coach Larry Wright said the Tigers had good shots early, but were stone cold.
"We had big fat shots and we have to make some of those," he said. "On offense, we weren't that bad. I will say this is not the talent on this (Arkansas) team that their fans are used to seeing, but they will improve and be pretty good with Stan Heath. His mark is that he is an excellent coach and his teams improve. They are young and will improve this season. Watch them."
Arkansas 64, Grambling 46 (Final)
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