What a difference a year makes.
A healthy Olu Famutimi showed off his old bounce with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists and Arkansas' two freshmen big men combined to block 9 shots as the Razorback hammered Texas A&M-Commerce 72-47 in an exhibition game Saturday night before 6,423 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
Darian Townes swatted away five shots and Steven Hill four in five foul-plagued minutes as the Razorbacks overpowered the Division II Lions.
"It was fun to finally play some one other than ourselves," noted Famutimi, who was bothered by a knee injury throughout last season. "There's a lot of things we can do better, but there's also a lot of things we showed that we do far better than we used to. One of them is send shots the other way and get some easy baskets. I had a lot of fun out there. I feel good."
Junior Eric Ferguson added 13 points off the bench, Ronnie Brewer added 11 points and six rebounds, freshman Charles Thomas nine points and six rebounds and Jonathon "Pookie" Modica seven points and six assists in the first of two preseason exhibitions with Division II squads.
"I can't complain," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "We did a good job rebounding (a 43-32 edge), we didn't turn the ball over a lot (13) and we defended well."
Despite the 25-point loss, TAMC head coach Sam Walker - whose entire team is made up of juniors and seniors - wasn't in a complaining mood either.
"I thought we played well," Walker said. "Any time a Division II school plays a Division I school, it's not hard to get your guys ready to play. I'm sure it was much easier for me to get my guys excited for this game than it was Coach Heath. Arkansas has a great team. They just wore us down."
In addition to the nine blocked shots, TAMC was just 1-of-20 from 3-point range and shot just 31 percent overall from the field.
It's hard to really gauge and evaluate this game," Heath said. "I don't know how good Texas A&M -Commerce is. I thought they played hard and they played the way a college team is going to play so from that aspect it was really helpful to play in this situation."
Arkansas shot 43.1 percent from the field, knocked down 7-of-18 3-pointers and shot 62.5 percent (15-of-24 from the free throw line.
"We wanted to go out there and play hard," Brewer said. "It feels good to play somebody other than ourselves. I thought it went well. We are still trying to find the chemistry, that's why we subbed a lot. The big guys were blocking a lot of shots. It was fun."
Indeed the young big fellas did have fun blocking shots, including Hill blocking three in one 16-second spree in a first half that ended with Arkansas ahead 36-24.
"Nine blocks shots - that put a smile on my face," Heath said. "Quite a few times it appears as if guys are getting ready to score and it's a fastbreak or a possession going back to Arkansas instead. I'm really excited about that."
Hill , who had six blocks in the Razorbacks' Red-White game last week, also managed to get five offensive fouls while only playing five minutes.
"I think some of those were legit and some of those are not going to get called when we play in the SEC," Heath said. "I don't want to totally back Steven or Darian or any of the big guys off because I don't want them to play tentative. I want them to be aggressive. If one guy gets in foul trouble we have some other guys we can throw in there."
For his part, Hill was thrilled to be out on the court but hopes to stay longer next time.
"It was crazy (running out there on the court for the first time), very exciting," Hill said. "We have improved a lot since our first practice. I thought we as a team played well. We would have liked to score more points, but that's how it goes. We the big men definitely have a presence on the offensive and defensive end."
Townes, who had six rebounds, was just 2-of-9 from the field while Hill missed his only shot.
"I feel like with both Darian and Steven, their offense is going to come along," Heath said. "Darian has got to just slow down a little bit in the post and if Steven plays more than two or three minutes, we can see what he can do...Their offense is going to come."
Ferguson knocked down a trio of 3-pointers, Famutimi a pair and Brewer and Dontell Jefferson (seven points) one each in the game, which was played with a deeper 3-point line and a wider lane - two experimental things being tried out.
Arkansas will take Sunday off before returning to court to play Abilene Christian in another exhibition game next Friday at 7:05 p.m.
That game will occur exactly one week before the Razorbacks open the regular season with a game against Winthorp in the opening round of the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
Stan Heath liked the defense in the exhibition opener.
Ronnie Brewer sets a play against Texas A&M Commerce.
Photos by Tom Ewart
UA 72, TAMC 47
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