Arkansas Wins Hoops Opener

The Hogs rolled by the Black Bears in the Preseason NIT. Wake Forest is up next.

Arkansas built a 25-point lead midway through the second half before settling for an easy, 64-47 victory in the first round of the Preseason NIT before 10,107 at Bud Walton Arena.

The Hogs played well and could have had a 30-point triumph except for poor shooting. They had plenty of open looks throughout the game against Maine's collapsing zone defense, but hit only 1 of 6 on threes and 1 of 5 on free throws in the second half.

Arkansas shot 36.5 percent for the game, but not because Maine's defense was especially salty. The Hogs just didn't make their open looks.

"Offense to me is shooting," Nolan Richardson said. "If you don't shoot good, it makes your offense look bad. We're not shooting as well as I think we can."

Teddy Gipson found the range, hitting 7 of 10 shots for 15 points to lead the Hogs. The senior guard was effective at driving to the hoop for most of his points.

"Our defense was strong tonight," Richardson said. "Our guards controlled their guards. From a defensive standpoint, I was really proud of our guys."

The Hogs forced 29 turnovers with fullcourt pressure. T. J. Cleveland, who entered after 6 minutes with the game still tight, was the sparkplug, grabbing five steals to help the Hogs spurt to a 36-21 halftime lead.

"The big difference in the game tonight was when T. J. went in," Richardson said. "He likes pressure the most, so he led the defense. The defense had control of the game from then on."

Mike Anderson said, "T. J. made a few steals and it got contagious. The rest of the guys followed him after they saw what we could do to them with pressure."

Jannero Pargo and J. J. Sullinger were the only other Razorbacks in double figures with 10 points. Sullinger attacked the basket, despite the presence of 7-0 Justin Rowe in the middle of the Maine defense.

"J. J. has a head on his shoulders," Richardson said. "He can play about anywhere. We put him on the high post. He brings something we don't have, like a Joe Johnson. He's a guy who can play a lot of places. And, he's going to keep getting better."

Dionisio Gomez was in the middle of the Hogs' run late in the first half, working the offensive glass for some stickbacks. He struggled early, but seemed to gain steam as the game progressed.

The Hogs will play Wake Forest in the second round at 7 p.m. Friday at Bud Walton Arena. Wake Forrest escaped with a late basket to defeat North Carolina-Wilmington.

"I definitely look forward to this game," Pargo said. "I've never played against an ACC team."

Maine's Black Bears were excited to play against the Razorbacks. Most noted after the game they loved the atmosphere, even though Walton Arena was only half full.

"This is like no experience I've ever had," said Rowe. "This is totally different than high school or junior college. The warm weather was a big change. It was hot in the gym. That was one of the first things we noticed after we got here, even when we got off the plane. It was hot. Back in Maine, we play in the ice box where they play hockey. So, we are used to a cold climate in the gym.

"I was disappointed in the way I played. But, they also had some good post players. I respect their players a lot. They are nice guys and will do well this season."

Guard Derrick Jackson said, "I like the atmosphere and the crowd made it fun, although they got after some of our younger players hard ... but it was all in good fun. We weren't used to the heat, but it wasn't that big of a factor."

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