Arkansas' basketball team showed just what could – and should - happen when you take care of the ball exceptionally and shoot it fairly well against an inferior visiting opponent on Saturday afternoon.
The Razorbacks had only one turnover at halftime and just three for the game while dishing out 23 assists while tuning up for the start of SEC Conference action on Tuesday night with a rousing 96-61 rout of North Texas Saturday before 14,009 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"It gives us some momentum," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said of his team's second win in a row but first in three home games. "I am sure the players are feeling good about themselves and feeling good about what we are doing. A lot of times it is attitude and mental more than anything else."
The low number of turnovers for Arkansas was a nice surprise for Heath, who watched his team dish out 14 assists by half up against a single miscue.
"I looked at that and I didn't know what to say," Heath said. "At halftime,we only had one turnover and they were excited about that and I said 'can you do for another 20 minutes?' Unfortunately we weren't able to do that, but we did hold it to just two."
Freshman guard Ronnie Brewer had 14 points to lead four Arkansas double figure scorers in a balanced offensive attack as the Razorbacks (8-3) rolled to a 29-9 lead early over the Mean Green three days ahead of a visit from LSU.
Arkansas had a 46-29 halftime lead and pushed that to 74-44 with 7:50 left in the ballgame, which is just after its third and final turnover of the day.
The 46 points by halftime and then 50 after intermission both broke the record for points in a game under second-year UA head coach Stan Heath and obviously set a high for total points in a game in his tenure as well.
The 23 assists that Arkansas had matched the number of turnovers it forced North Texas into making.
Sophomore Jonathon "Pookie" Modica added 13 points, Billy Pharis 12 points, a team-high 6 rebounds and three blocks and Eric Ferguson 11 as the Razorbacks moved within a win of their total victory total during last year's 9-19 mark.
Ferguson also added 8 assists, 3 steals and had just one turnover in 25 minutes while Brewer had five rebounds, four of his team's 13 steals and a trio of assists.
"Ronnie and Eric - more than anybody else - set the tone," Heath said. "Billy is a good passer, too, for a big guy.
Rashard Sullivan, the Razorbacks' 6-8, 235-pound sophomore forward, had six of his team's first eight points before getting into foul trouble.
"I've seen him do that in practice where he just attacks the rim and tries to tear it off," Heath said. "Whenever he gets the ball in close, he just needs to attack the rim."
Razorback quarterback Matt Jones, seeing his first action with the basketball team, had two points, two rebounds and two assists in 11 minutes of action in his first appearance this season with the basketball team.
Jones,a junior who had not played since his freshman season, got a huge ovation when he first entered the game with 3:28 left in the first half.
He missed a 3-pointer in his first attempt and finished 1-fo-4 from the field after making a baseline jumper late in the second half.
"He's got a real nice feel for the game," Heath said. "He really only practiced about 10 minutes yesterday and part of that was just kind of a walk through. So you are looking at a guy that hasn't touched the basketball at all, especially around his teammates. He is not going to do anything, but get better and better, but his presence alone it helps us."
Jerome Rogers and Leonard Hopkins had 12 points each and 6-9, 250-pound LSU transfer Shownson Johnson 11 to lead North Texas (4-7), who was coming in off a 79-70 loss at home to Indiana and suffered its worst loss of the year.
Slowing down Johnson, who got up just 10 shots and had four turnovers after averaging nearly 20 points his last four games, was a big concern for Arkansas.
"We felt the need to give him some attention," Heath said. "He was a good one-on-one player. We also knew that he had a tendency to get a little frustrated, too. The double team really helped us. At times we got a little overzealous and reached in there and fouled, but I think that set the tone for us - being very aggressive and taking away the inside presence right away."
Arkansas freshman Olu Famutimi played on Saturday after missing Tuesday's win at Tulsa and had two points and two boards in 18 minutes.
Charles Tatum and Kendrick Davis both added eight points off the bench as the Razorbacks got 40 points from their reserves.
Arkansas hit 11-of-23 3-pointers in the game and shot 47.9 percent overall from the field and connected on 15-of-22 free throws.
"I just felt like we made good decisions," Heath said. "When somebody was open we got them the ball. We didn't overdribble too much and if guys had shots they took them and if they didn't they made an extra pass."
Arkansas and LSU will clash Tuesday night at 8:05 p.m. in an ESPN nationally televised affair from Bud Walton Arena.
Heath said his team's goal was to be 9-2 headed into SEC play, but a shocking home loss to Western Carolina kept that from happening.
But the Razorbacks have certainly responded since that aforementioned loss with a win at Tulsa and Saturday's home rout.
"I give all the credit to the players," Heath said. "They played with lots of energy and effort. They came ready to play. It's like a new group of guys. They are playing with confidence and playing together. The thing is they're having fun. They seem to be maturing and really are coming together."
Arkansas 96, North Texas 61
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