For only the second time in 12 games this season, the University of Arkansas basketball team went to intermission behind at halftime.
But unlike No. 1 Illinois did back in North Little Rock on Dec. 4, the inspired Gamecocks of Jacksonville (Ala.) State - a so called cupcake that didn't go down as well as one might have guess - didn't have enough to seal the deal with the Razorbacks.
Ronnie Brewer posted his first career double -double with 17 points, a career-high 13 rebounds, four assists and four steals as Arkansas - down by six with 10 minutes left in the game - rallied to down Jacksonville State 73-67 before a crowd of 15,924 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"It looks like we went home for Christmas and left our defense," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "The intensity wasn't very good and we didn't play very well defensively. But I'm happy we found a way to win. We have struggled in games like this the last few years and come up with an L (loss.)"
Eric Ferguson, playing just a few days after being injured in a car accident in New York, added 13 points, 6 assists and 4 steals.
Darian Townes 11 for the Razorbacks (11-1), who won their sixth game in a row, played without freshman power forward Charles Thomas and for the first time in a six days since breaking for Christmas.
Jacksonville State (4-8) actually still led 50-49 with 7:13 left in the game.
"In the long run a game like this may help us, but I wasn't happy with the way we played," Heath said."...There is some value in a close game. The only games we have had close at the end were Illinois and Missouri."
It was the also the first time Arkansas faced adversity at Bud Walton Arena this season and easily the loudest its crowd has been at home this campaign.
There was a large walk up crowd that brought turnback tickets.
"I didn't know what to expect, but the crowd helped us out a lot and gave us that extra boost," Heath said. "We will really be excited if more and more people continue to come out."
Arkansas won the rebounding battle 33-22 and had 16 turnovers - only one in the final 10 minutes - while the visitors coughed it up 19 times.
"I'm proud of our effort," Jacksonville head coach Mike LaPlante said, "but we are not into moral victories. No matter how close it was it is still a lost."
Jacksonville guard Walker D. Russell, Jr. had 24 points, Anthony Wilson added 15 and Dorien Brown 13 for the Gamecocks.
Russell's dad of the same name played on a Detroit Pistons World Championship team with Isiah Thomas and is currently an assistant with the New York Knicks.
LaPlante was obviously disappointed with the loss, but proud of how his team stayed in the game.
"We came into one of the toughest environements in the country and had the lead with seven minutes to play," Laplante said, "but give Arkansas credit for making the plays down the stretch."
The Gamecocks made 59.1 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half and 50 percenf from the game.
The Razorbacks hit on 53.8 percent of their shots from the floor and 46.6 percent overall during the contest.
"We had not had anyone shoot the ball that well against us all year," Heath said, "but we did not play with the intensity level and smarts."
Russell, who helped get his team out to a 16-11 lead, scored the last five points of the first half to give the visitors a 34-33 advantage going to the break.
No one except reserve senior forward Mike Jones - who tossed in 8 points in 9 minutes of first-half action - had over five points for the Razorbacks when intermission rolled around.
Arkansas used a 7-2 start to the second half and grabbed a 41-35 lead when Ronnie Brewer drilled a 3-pointer at the 15:25 mark, but a 10-0 Jacksonville spree that found the Razorbacks looking uphill one again.
Russell's free throw gave Jacksonville State a 48-42 lead with just 10:32 left, but Arkansas responded with seven straight points to take the lead as the crowd roared.
Although the Gamecocks took the lead again, the Razorbacks then ripped off a 11-2 run - a spree capped on consecutive steals and slams by Jonathon "Pookie" Modica and Brewer to put them ahead 60-52 with 5:48 left.
Jacksonville State got within as close as 62-59, but could get no closer from that point on.
Arkansas will return to action on Friday night when it hosts Louisiana-Monroe at 7:05 p.m. in the Razorbacks last nonconference game before starting SEC play on Jan. 5 by hosting Ole Miss.
Arkansas 73, Jacksonville State 67
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