Not Much Good Comes Out of These

FAYETTEVILLE – The price of humiliation?

Around $55,000.

They call these mismatches of home powers and no-chancers money games because the underdogs almost always take home a whoopin' and a nice chunk of change for their troubles.

Really, though, that's a misnomer.

The folks in Las Vegas wouldn't touch Saturday's Arkansas-Prairie View A&M game in Bud Walton Arena. There was no line for lots of good reasons, chiefly that the Panthers were winless, losing at ridiculous counts to teams such as Wisconsin-Milwaukee (117-55).

So the 102-50 win that runs the Razorbacks' record to 8-1 came as a surprise to no one.

Prairie View (Texas) is famous for one thing: Losing about a decade's worth of football games. The Panthers came in netting just 29 percent from the floor and had been outrebounded by an average of more than 16 boards. Leading scorer Phillip Scott averages 7.5 points.

Of course, these things are season highlights for the underunderunderunderdogs and third-year Prairie View coach Jerome Francis hollered, stomped and clapped in animated fashion for much of the first half.

Looking and sounding like a gospel coach, he went bonkers when Oscar Thompson cut it to 9-5 and helped Thompson up after a Jonathon Modica elbow decked him a couple of minutes later.

But Francis soon lost faith.

By the time a Darian Townes tip made it 37-12 with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first half, Francis was sitting sideways and silently in a chair, his hands rubbing his forehead.

A flurry of two Prairie View baskets brought him briefly back to life, but he doubled over when Steven Hill's tip pushed Arkansas up 41-17.

"When I get after ‘em a lot, it scares the boys at times, so I try to stay calm," Francis said. "I try to stay composed. So, hopefully, if they see me composed, they'll have a little more composure. They're puppies, they're babies, and they're already a little nervous as it is.

"This is the second game I haven't sweated. My shirts are usually drenched."

It's totally understandable that third-year Arkansas coach Stan Heath wants to pad the Hogs' record and instill confidence in this young, up-and-coming team.

But this was taking things a bit too far.

Prairie View assistant Darrell Hawkins played here from 1989-93, and Francis wanted to help bring him back.

"I tried to tell them what it's like to play a serious D-I school," said Hawkins, his head shaking.

Arkansas was heads-and-shoulders above in talent and about six inches taller per position.

And despite the disparity in all areas, the Hogs played with energy, somehow mustering enthusiasm for an opponent like this, which is no small feat.

"Their kids are long and athletic, play hard," Francis said.

Everyone knew what was coming. Before the tip, Arkansas' Olu Famutimi flashed a mischievous grin.

With Philip Scott eyeing a free throw and a 28-9 deficit with 9:36 to go until intermission, Arkansas fans in the student section chanted, "Double digits! Double digits!"

They then gave a mock cheer when Scott sank it.

How bad was it?

Arkansas outrebounded Prairie View 59-30, had 16 more assists, 11 more blocks and 7 less turnovers.

In the last minute of the first half, Prairie View had a fast-break opportunity. Problem was, Dominique Sharp's pass plopped harmlessly off the back of Anthony Oha.

Francis bent over forward again.

"We haven't handled these last two games well," Francis said. "Tulsa banged us (97-44 last Sunday), they beat us up pretty good. Arkansas ... I don't know. Our opponents the last two games got 60 rebounds against us.

"You're right, it's hard to find something to build on."

The only thing you can gauge out of something like this is how well the Hogs can dunk, tip and block against short people and the size of the hearts of most of the outmatched Panthers.

Early in the second half, Prairie View's Jared Ellison ripped a steal and fed Oha, who finished with a nasty dunk.

That cut it to 51-30. Nineteen minutes remained.

Arkansas fans cheered, this time not in mockery.

But this wasn't something to shout about.

"I really don't know what we've gained from this," Francis said.

On Saturday, that's about the only thing both teams could say.

***

Gimme A Break

Taking a breather for the first time in years and years during this holiday season.

Will be back for the Southeastern Conference opener here on Jan. 5 and expect the Hogs to be 12-1 and ranked in the Associated Press Top-25 by then.

Happy holidays!


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