Jefferson Starts In Place Of Modica

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Arkansas junior Dontell Jefferson started in place of a struggling Jonathan Modica during Tuesday's 62-52 win against Missouri in Mizzou Arena.

Modica, the leading returning scorer and the Hogs' co-captain along with Ronnie Brewer, played just 11 minutes and had more turnovers (3) than points (2) in a 72-60 loss against then-No. 5 Illinois in North Little Rock's Alltel Arena on Saturday.

The junior didn't fare much better Tuesday, turning the ball over 3 times with 3 points, 2 steals and a rebound in 14 minutes.

"Eventually, I know we're going to see Jonathan back, the Jonathan we're used to seeing," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "We're staying confident and encouraging him and I'm very confident that it's going to happen very soon."

Modica entered Tuesday's game with 15:36 remaining in the first half and promptly forceded Thomas Gardner into a traveling call with tight defense. He forced another turnover when he came up with a steal with 4:31 left in the first half. It led to a layup by Darian Townes and a 20-19 Arkansas advantage.

"I just wanted to go out there and try to give an all-out effort," Modica said. "I tried to provide a spark, any way I could by doing whatever I can do to help the team."

Brewer said he believes Modica is on the verge of coming back in full force as well. The duo played AAU basketball together since they were in grade school.

"Whenever (Modica) plays, he does something positive for us whether it's rebounding, shooting, hitting free throws or just his presence being out there," Brewer said. "Hopefully, he can continue to work through this because he's a big asset to our team and we have to have him to be a good team in the (Southeastern Conference) so hopefully he can get rolling.

"And I'm not really worried about it. I know what kind of player he is because we've been playing together since we were young.

"He'll be back."

With Jefferson in the lineup, Heath said it takes pressure off Brewer from being the main ball handler. Brewer scored a game-high 20 points and made the first two shots of the game for the Razorbacks.

So more than Modica struggling, that was the reason Jefferson started, Heath said.

"We wanted to have a ball handler out there on the court to help Ronnie and it really does," Heath said. "He needed to get off to good start. I thought that was important."

Jefferson, making his second career start, had 6 points, 2 assists and a steal. All of his scoring came from the free throw line and he drained five free throws when it mattered most in the final 66 seconds of regulation

"We've got to make our free throws," Jefferson said. "Free throws are going to be a big part of our game and down the stretch, you really can't miss any free throws.

"As far as starting, it doesn't really matter to us. We just go out and play the game as hard as we can whenever our number is called."

As for Modica, he just plans to continue trying to dig his way out of the early season slump.

"The team is winning and we're doing good, but it's frustrating," Modica said. "I must admit, it's been real frustrating not being able to help out more when I know I can.

"I just hope and pray that I'll snap out of this and I know eventually, I will."

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