NORTH LITTLE ROCK – University of Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath's halftime speech must have hit all the right notes.
Because his team responded by hitting all its shots – or at least the first six – to open the second half and turn a tight game into a runaway before a Fox Sports South television regional audience.
Jonathon Modica had 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half and Kendrick Davis bombed home two of his four 3-pointers during a 13-0 Razorback spree right after intermission in what turned into an 85-65 rout of Jacksonville Saturday afternoon before a sparse crowd of 6,165 fans at Alltel Arena.
"I was pleased with our effort today," said Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, whose team shot nearly 60 percent in the second half. "I thought we really made some steps and got better as a team."
The home team led the Dolphins just 35-28 at the break, but the Razorbacks hit their first six shots of the second half – including a trio of treys – to go up 48-28 on Modica's layup with 17:15 left in the game and the visitors got no closer than 12 the rest of the way in Arkansas' only Central Arkansas appearance of the season.
"The only thing I told them is that we need to make sure (and put them away) because in games like this if we don't set the tone the first four or five minutes of the (half), the confidence of Jacksonville is just going to grow and grow and we are going to have a dogfight at the end," Heath said. "If we jumped on them right away in the first four of five minutes we can put the game away. That's the mindset we tried to have going out at halftime. We set that with a defensive tone."
Haminn Quaintance and Jarred Stockton each had 12 points to lead Jacksonville (1-2), who got back within a dozen at one point by knocking down several of its nine 3-pointers in the second half, but then watched Arkansas go on to shoot 59 percent in the second half and ease to the win.
"When the second half started, they doubled the lead in about three or maybe four trips down the floor," noted Hugh Durham, the former 17-year Georgia head coach. "The first three shots were 3-pointers. They did a good job sharing the ball and realizing who was open. The found the guys and they had a hot hand.
"…I was very impressed with the pressure defense, their ability to shoot it from outside and going on the glass," Durham added.
Davis added 19 points and freshmen Ronnie Brewer 12 points and 7 assists for Arkansas (3-0), who shot 58.8 percent from the field in the second half and 51.5 percent for the game.
Eric Ferguson and Olu Famutimi each added 8 points in the win for the Razorbacks, who hit 6-of-10 free throws and outrebounded their foes 36-35.
It turned out to be the first game in Heath's 31-game Arkansas tenure that the Razorbacks had more assists (22) than turnovers (15) in a game where they forced 15 of Jacksonville's 24 miscues in the opening half.
"I think that happened because we shared the ball," Heath said. "We had a lot of guys touching the ball, a lot of guys making the extra pass and an unselfish attitude out there on the court. That's the way we need to play. We have been preaching it and talking about it and working on it and to see it carried out is a positive for our team."
The Razorbacks took their largest lead of the game on a 16-5 spree, capped by Eric Ferguson 3-pointer that brought the entire bench up as he let it go for an 80-59 advantage with 5:09 left in the contest.
"Our guys let our offense feed off of our defense rather than in the past where if we making shots we were feeling good, we would defend," Heath said. "Today we were defending and making some steals and then making shot shots."
Arkansas will try to move it's early season mark to 4-0 with a win over visiting Oral Roberts University Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks will then finish up the week with their first road game against highly-regarded Illinois Saturday at 11:05 a.m. in Chicago.
"I want to just continue to get better each game," Heath said. "We have got a long way to go to get where we want to go, but the key is just to get better each game and each practice."
Arkansas 85, Jacksonville 65
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