Arkansas Rings In New Year With Win

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Stan Heath covered his face and peeked through his fingers like he was watching a horror movie.

Louisiana-Monroe's 85-43 loss against the Razorbacks (12-1) on Friday in Bud Walton Arena was exactly that.

Late in the first half, Heath watched as Olu Famutimi picked off a steal and threw an underhanded pass ahead to Ronnie Brewer.

With Famutimi trailing the play, the crowd of 14,205 held its breath in anticipation.

Something bad was going to happen to the Indians (6-5).

Brewer bounced the ball off the backboard for the incoming Famutimi, who snared the pass, threw it down for a 54-21 lead, hung on the rim and earned a technical foul for slapping the backboard.

Arkansas whooped it up, high-fived and celebrated at midcourt while the roar of the crowd drowned out the referee's whistle.

No one cared, not even Heath, who revealed his smiling face when he pulled his hands down.

"When you're up big, those are good," Heath said. "I saw it coming. I had a feeling Ronnie was going to do that. He's a very unselfish player. It was a good play.

"I didn't think he hung long enough for a ‘T'. Any time you slap the backboard, you're going to get a ‘T'.

"That was just kids being kids."

The kids were all right less than 48 hours after surviving with a 73-67 win against Jacksonville State on Wednesday.

Famutimi, Jonathon Modica and Charles Thomas didn't miss a shot in the first half, going a combined 13 of 13 while Brewer went 4 of 5 and swiped 5 steals in the opening period.

Arkansas scored 31 points off 18 ULM turnovers in the first half, shot 23 of 34 (67.6 percent) and had 16 assists to just 2 turnovers.

Modica finished with a game- and season-high 20 points on 8 of 9 shooting. Famutimi matched his season high of 17 and was one off his career-high.

Brewer had 18 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a career-high 7 steals.

The Razorbacks rang in the new year by matching their win total of last year and will open Southeastern Conference play on Wednesday against Ole Miss in Fayetteville.

Arkansas ended the game with 38 points off 30 Indian turnovers, outrebounded ULM 32-30 and shot 56 percent for the game (33 of 58).

After allowing Jacksonville State to shoot 59 percent in the first half and 50 for the game on Wednesday, Heath said the defensive effort Friday was as different as night and day.

The Indians shot just 16 of 46 (34.8 percent) and 1 of 10 from 3-point range.

"There was a lot of things we were doing we didn't do well in the other game," Heath said. "We were stepping up hard on ball screens, we got great pressure on the ball, got a lot of deflections and finished the defensive possession by rebounding."

Arkansas did more clowning around than Barnum and Bailey in the first half and Brewer's streetball feed to Famutimi was the capper with 1:10 to play before halftime.

Brewer said he'd only messed around with plays like that before and didn't expect he'd ever get a chance to do it in a live game.

"At the end of practice, yeah, we joke around," he said. "We throw it off the shot clock and everything like that. I never thought I'd do it in a game."

Darian Townes, who scored 9, grabbed 3 rebounds and blocked 3 shots, was impressed.

"That was awesome," he said. "I haven't seen that since high school when a lot of players do that. It was exciting what he did right there sharing the ball."

Modica said it was "the funnest game of the year."

"The dunks we did ... Ronnie throws it off the backboard. I haven't seen that since I've been here," Modica said. "It was great."

Thomas was back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 23 against Hartford after missing the Jacksonville State game to be with his girlfriend for the birth of his daughter on Tuesday in Jackson, Miss.

He scored four quick points early and led Arkansas in rebounding for the first time this season with five. He finished with 6 points on 3 of 4 shooting in 17 minutes.

With a little blue in Arkansas' uniforms and the Indians sporting gold, the first half would have looked more like a game between the Harlem Globetrotters and the Washington Generals.

Among the highlights:

Rashard Sullivan tipped a ball at the top of the key and saw Brewer was going to come up with the steal. He raced down court and Brewer tossed a no-look, two-handed pass over the top of his head and Sullivan dunked it for a 24-10 lead.

• On the next Indians possession, Darian Townes came up with a steal and threw a 50-foot touchdown pass to Modica to go ahead 26-10.

• Brewer jumped in the passing lane for a steal and a coast-to-coast dunk.

• While falling to the ground, Eric Ferguson threw a pass from his rear end to Famutimi, who sank a 3-pointer.

• Famutimi came up with another steal and tossed ahead to Ferguson, who threw a high lob pass to Brewer,who dunked for a 35-13 lead.

"I was just glad I caught it.," Brewer said. "He threw it up real high and I was waiting for it to come back down to have a chance at it. When I got my steps right, I just took it to the rim."

The hits just kept coming.

Modica hit a 3-pointer, than swiped a floating pass in the backcourt and dunked for a 38-16 lead, Brewer sank a 3, Famutimi connected from long distance and then took the pass from Brewer off the backboard.

"We were just out there freestyling," Famutimi said. "We play with a lot of adrenaline. The highlights were there, so we took it."

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