For a little while Monday night, it looked like Lipscomb University - and especially guard Brian Fisk - were not going to go down without a fight.
But then the calvary arrived for the University of Arkansas - just too many Razorback players to contend with for the former NAIA school from Nashville - and all hope was lost for the visitors.
Jonathon "Pookie" Modica had 16 points, Darian Townes and Olu Famutim added 15 each and Ronnie Brewer 13 as the Razorbacks overwhelmed the Bison 83-54 before 11,289 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"We are doing what we are really are supposed to do and what we want to do," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "I wasn't sure we would be able to do this when we were going through our schedule, but it is a pleasant surprise for me."
The Razorbacks ended the first half with a 31-4 run as they won their fourth straight game and matched their entire victory total of two seasons ago with the victory.
"I think there are two things that are being created for an identity for us," Heath said. "When we play with a lot of passion out there on the court we get energized and we make a lot of things happen.
"And I really like our defense," Heath said. "It is hard to get a good look at the rim. We are able to cover up for each other's mistakes when we make them sometime. Those are two things I really like about our team. They are starting to play very well out there."
It is also the best start for Arkansas since it won the national championship back in 1994.
Lipscomb (6-2) had its six-game winning streak ended with the loss, their only blemish since a season-opening 83-66 loss at Minnesota in a game they were in until late.
"They are very big and deep," Lipscomb coach Scott Sanderson said. "We knew going in it would be a challenge. If we drove too deep, there big guy in the middle No. 51 (Steven Hill) was going to block it. Their size and strength wore us down.
"Ronnie Brewer is hard to defend," Sanderson said. "He is a great player. He gets everybody involved and I don't think there is a selfish bone in his body. From what I can tell he looks like an internal leader."
Arkansas shot 53.3 percent from the field, knocked down 7 of its 17 3-pointers and made 12-of-18 free throws in the win.
The Razorbacks had 30 points off of 21 Lipscomb turnovers while only making 10 themselves and dishing out 16 assists.
Modica's 16 points were a season high and he had no turnovers in 18 minutes.
"Pookie's problems earlier this year was that he was being too unselfish," Arkansas assitant Orande Taliaferro said. "He was trying to become a passer and an assist man. That made him too hesitant and trying to keep from making mistakes.
He is the best catch and shoot man on our team. I wanted him to get back to being that kind of player. He doesn't have to put it on the floor to be a scorer. No one else on our team is like that. It is good to see the weight of the world come off his shoulders. His head is clear and the fire is back in his game."
Modica was 6-of-9 from the field and hit 3of-4 3-pointers. One of those was a monster slam on an alley oop that got the run going.
"Coach T gave me some positive thoughts and helped keep my confidence up" Modica said. "I was thinking too much and had gotten to where I had lost my comfort level. I am playing better now. I got off tonight, but I have got more to bring. This is just a start. We are sharing the ball and having fun. On the alley oop, I was hoping to get some emotion out of that and break the game open with a run."
Townes, a 6-10, 253-pound rookie post, had his third straight solid offensive game and is averaging 17 points per game in that stretch.
"I was rushing my shot and my coaches - especially Coach (Ronny) Thompson pulled me aside and showed me how to slow down (in practice before his hot streak)," Townes said. "It's showing now what they worked with me on. I am getting more comfortable and it is not just offense. I still have a lot more work to do. I will say this - the coaches showed me film on these last two teams and they aren't very aggressive on defense inside."
Fish, a 6-2 sophomore guard, had 16 of his 18 points in the first half and James Poindexter added 12 points, but watched his team's 12-7 lead turn into a 48-24 defcit by intermission.
That lead surged to 59-25 on Modica's 18-footer with 15:33 left in the game and was still at 34 when Dontell Jefferson's lay-up made it 73-39 at the 4:38 mark as Arkansas liberally used its bench.
"Those little boys were talking trash and they were down by 30," Brewer said. "That's not part of my game, but if it was, that's not the time I would have used it. We just turned it up harder on them. We are very deep with lots of weapons and we just bringing it on them."
Arkansas will retun to action Thursday with a 7:05 p.m. televised game against Hartford before taking a break for Christmas and then finishing up the nonconference slate by hosting Jacksonville (Dec. 29) and Louisiana-Monroe(Dec. 31).
Ronnie Brewer dunks against Lipscomb.
Stan Heath joins his team and mascots in the student section to celebrate after the victory.
Photo by Tom Ewart
Arkansas 83, Lipscomb 54
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