Arkansas Defense Clips Eagles

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Olu Famutimi had every high-flyer's dream.

A steal and a wide-open path to the opposite basket.

But there was no tomahawk, no backward reverse. Just a routine two-handed slam and a jog back upcourt.

Arkansas beat Winthrop 72-49 to open the Paradise Jam and its 2004-05 season in front of 1,287 fans, but the offense -- again -- wasn't the highlight.

The story was the suffocating defense of the Razorbacks (1-0) holding the Eagles (0-1) to just nine points over the final 16 minutes, 33 seconds following a 40-40 tie.

Counting the 41-9 run Arkansas posted over the final 14 minutes against Abilene Christian to close its exhibition season, the Razorbacks have outscored their opponents 73-18 in the final 30 minutes of the last two games.

Unlike Abilene, though, this one counts and the Razorbacks are off to a successful start to their season and will have today off before facing Troy on Sunday at 7 p.m. central time.

Arkansas was down 17-10 with 12 minutes to play against Winthrop, just as they were down 20-13 to Abilene at the same stage of the game.

Arkansas fought back to take a 43-36 lead against Abilene; it did the same to gain a slim 33-30 halftime advantage despite missing five long jumpers in a row at one point.

"'We might as well get used to this,'" Heath told his team at intermission "It's going to be pretty similar to what happens lots of times. It's going to be nip and tuck and we have to be a team in the second half that can take things to another level and deliver a knockout punch."

The Razorbacks delivered just such a blow after Heath got cost his team a point for a technical foul with 16:33 to play and Charles Thomas trying to take a charge but earning a blocking call instead.

Torrell Martin of Winthrop hit the first of two technical free throws to bring Winthrop even at 40, but missed the second and the Eagles wouldn't score for another 6 minutes.

Famutimi, who finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds, both game-highs, hit his third 3-pointer in four tries to break the tie.

Thomas earned two free throws and Eric Ferguson, who scored 16 with 4 assists, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push Arkansas ahead 51-40.

Thomas scored Arkansas' first real inside points with a hard basket and a foul and freshman center Darian Townes helped nail the coffin closed with a nice turnaround jumper and a thunderous dunk off a steal and assist from Ferguson to put Arkansas ahead 58-41 with 8:25 to play.

Winthrop clearly started showing the effects of fatigue from Arkansas' constant pressure.

Heath wanted an uptempo game to force the scoring higher into Arkansas' kind of game, and Winthrop seemed willing and ready to run with the Hogs.

The Eagles beat the press a couple times for easy baskets and hit 5 of 9 3-pointers in the first half.

The Razorbacks outrebounded Winthrop just 16-15 and post players Thomas, Townes, Steven Hill and Rashard Sullivan got one shot each.

Arkansas settled for 3-pointers and hit a decent clip at 6 of 11, but the Razorbacks collected few offensive rebounds off their long misses and Heath told his team -- like he told the media -- that they couldn't be just a perimeter team.

"We weren't rebounding the ball very well," Heath said. "They were getting too many second shots and we were being a totally perimeter oriented team. We had to get it more inside or penetrate so we could draw more fouls."

In the second half, the fluttering Eagles stopped moving their feet on defense and were called for several blocking and hand-checking calls to put Arkansas in the bonus with nine minutes left.

The free throws allowed Arkansas to set its press even better and Winthrop came very close to two backcourt violations after Razorback makes from the charity stripe.

"We didn't doubt them," Famutimi said. "They won 16 games last year, so they ain't no bums. We just kicked it in the second half and knocked down some shots. But what won the game for us was our defense."

Hill blocked 4 shots officially, but he had at least a couple more deflections and several shots altered. He again picked up two quick fouls after earning the start in his first collegiate game, but was instrumental in starting Arkansas' run in the second half.

After Heath's technical foul, Hill blocked three shots in less than two minutes.

"He responded well in the second half," Heath said of Hill. "He had some key blocks, he was a presence for us in a key part of that game.

"Darian settled down in the second half, too."

Sophomore Ronnie Brewer had 11 points in 26 minutes and said Arkansas has to rebound better and cut down on the turnovers -- Winthrop scored 16 points off 15 Hog giveaways -- but the constant defensive pressure will carry it through rough shooting nights.

"We know we're well conditioned," Brewer said. "If we keep fighting, we can effect things later in the game. We know if we continue to do the things we do, we'll be a successful team."

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