Arkansas Tames Lions

Arkansas' first exhibition game of the season didn't produce a lot of offense, but it was plenty offensive.

Ten offensive fouls, seven by Arkansas and five by freshman center Steven Hill, and occasional ragged play by both teams overshadowed some of the Razorbacks' successes in their 72-47 win against Texas A&M-Commerce before an announced crowd of 6,453 in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.

As a full team, Arkansas didn't match the 73 points put up by the Red team in its intrasquad scrimmage last week, but the Razorbacks did defend extremely well and rarely turned it over.

Arkansas held the Division II Lions scoreless for the first four minutes and 39 seconds of the game while building a 9-0 lead and held them to 18 of 58 from the field (31 percent).

Take away the seven offensive fouls and Arkansas' ballhandlers only committed 6 miscues versus 19 assists.

Sophomore Olu Famutimi led all scorers and rebounders with 17 points and 7 boards and leading returning scorer Jonathon Modica took on a distributor role and had a game-high six assists while taking only four shots.

The Razorbacks did have some struggles, though, mostly on their jump shots.

Arkansas started the game 7 of 20 from the floor and allowed the Lions to outscore it 17-14 to cut the lead to six points at 23-17 midway through the first half.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath warned there would be no gimmes on the Razorbacks schedule and the Lions did not exactly wilt under the Razorbacks' pressure with a veteran ball club.

Texas A&M-Commerce trailed by just 12 at halftime and only 14 at the first media timeout of the second half before Arkansas went on a 28-17 run to close out the game and win handily.

"I thought we played well," said Lions coach Sam Walker. "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 for coach Heath. Arkansas has a great team.

"They just wore us down."

The up-and-down performance offensively had Heath scratching his head a bit after the game, but he pronounced himself satisfied with his team's effort.

"It's hard to gauge and evaluate this game," Heath said. "I don't know how good Texas A&M-Commerce is, but I thought they played hard and they played the way a college team is going to play. From that aspect, it was really helpful to play in this situation.

"It was helpful for our younger big guys to figure out what's a foul, what's not a foul. I guess I'm learning that, too."

Hill's debut wasn't all about the offensive fouls. Between whistles, he blocked 4 shots, including on three straight Lions possessions in the first half.

One led to a sweet no-look alley-oop from Ronnie Brewer to Famutimi and another would have been another highlight play by the same pair, but the Lions had to foul to stop it.

Brewer finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds.

Fellow freshman Darian Townes made the start at center and collected 5 blocks to go with 6 rebounds and 4 points of 2 of 9 shooting.

"Nine blocked shots put a smile on my face," Heath said. "Quite a few times it appears they're getting ready to score and all of a sudden it's a fastbreak or going back to Arkansas. I'm really excited about that."

Junior guard Eric Ferguson flourished in his role as a combo guard coming off the bench. Ferguson, who started the last two years at point guard, keyed runs in the first and second halves with his defense and shooting.

He scored 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

Like Heath, Ferguson wasn't sure what grade to give the Hogs, but he didn't want to give a good one.

"We did an average job," Ferguson said. "If we're going to compete in the SEC, we have to be above average.

Arkansas outrebounded the Lions 43-32 and collected offensive rebounds on half its misses.

The Razorbacks scored 26 points off just 16 turnovers while the Lions could only manage 5 off Arkansas' 13 giveaways.

Arkansas pressed fullcourt much of the game, but didn't create a lot of steals against a veteran backcourt for Texas A&M-Commerce.

Getting more from the halfcourt offense and the fullcourt defense ended up being Heath's major assessments of the game.

"We still have a lot of work to do," Heath said. "But I can't complain. We did a good job rebounding, we didn't turn the ball over a whole lot and we defended well. We'll get better as a team shooting on the perimeter and scoring around the basket."

Arkansas is off from practice today before getting back to work Monday in preparation for another Division II team from the Lone Star Conference.

The Razorbacks host Abilene Christian at 7:05 p.m. Friday in Walton Arena.

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