University of Arkansas head coach Stan Heath warned his basketball team that the intensity would go up a notch when SEC play rolled around.
That was the certainly the case when Ole Miss came to Fayetteville for both teams' league opener on Wednesday night, but it didn't stop the Razorback from grabbing their eight straight win.
Eric Ferguson had 14 points and 6 assists and sophomore Ronnie Brewer had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals as Arkansas rolled Ole Miss 69-46 before 18,016 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"We were up for the game and very emotional," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "We didn't maybe channel it the right way and got a little frustrated here and there. In the second half we just started playing basketball and not worrying about a whole lot of things and really focused in on the things we are good at."
Injured freshman center Darian Townes added 12 for the Razorbacks (13-1, 1-0), who held the Rebels (9-5, 0-1) to 25.5 percent field goal shooting in a game matching teams that were both coming in with 7-game winning streaks.
"This is a game where we thought we could hold them down some in scoring, but we didn't score as well as we were capable of scoring," Ole Miss head coach Rod Barnes said. "That made it tough for us out there on the floor...I thought we didn't make some plays we had normally been making and didn't shoot the ball as well."
The Rebels, playing without their starting center and second-leading scorer in 6-7, 245-pound post Tommie Eddie, had just five field goals in the first half and seven after the break.
"I think because of their athleticism we were not aggressive as we have been and that is just something we have to do," Barnes added. "We felt like Tommie Eddie would be a factor on our basketball team and we run everything through him whether it is catching and passing or trying to score in the post."
Londrick Nolen had 19 points and 12 rebounds to lead Ole Miss, who didn't know it would be without Eddie until they were leaving for Fayetteville.
Nolen perhaps summed up the game best.
"I missed him tonight, but sometimes you have to go to work without your friends," Nolen said. "Your other co-workers have got to step up."
Arkansas led just 27-23 at intermission, but turned it up a notch after the break.
The Rebels had 16 of their 24 turnovers in the second half, where Arkansas dominated to the tune of 42-23.
"Our guys really picked it up in the second half," Heath said. "We were very tough. We just turned it up defensively. We were able to get steals and held them to a low field goal percentage both from the three and the two."
The Razorbacks shot 47.7 percent from the field, but allowed the Rebels to hang in the game by making just 18-of-37 from the free throw line.
Brewer, who did have five turnovers, was 2-of-7 from the line and Modica was just 3-of-9. The rest of the team was 13-of-21.
"I think maybe we might go the other way and not shoot as much of the them," Heath said jokingly. "We've been shooting an extra 100 a day."
There were 47 fouls called in the game and 67 free throws put up. Arkansas actually shot 53 in the two teams' game here last season.
"They really plays in their favor because every time you stop, they get a chance to set their press up," Barnes said. "That plays into their favor and doesn't play into ours."
Mississippi native Charles Thomas and Jonathon Modica added 9 points and Olu Famutimi added 8 for Arkansas.
"We had a lot of guys and pretty good balance, good inside play," Heath said, "especially Darian and Charles and Ronnie and Eric were our catalysts both offensively and defensively."
It was the second win in as many times for the Razorbacks over Ole Miss, who had won 7 straight in the series before last season's final of two meetings between the two.
The UA now leads the series 36-19, which is that close because Ole Miss has won 11 of the last 14 between the two.
The 13th win this season is one more than the Razorbacks notched the entire 2003-2004 season when they went 12-16.
Arkansas will now play away from home for the first time in eight games when it travels to play Florida (8-3, 0-0) Saturday in a 11 a.m. contest.
Arkansas 69, Ole Miss 46
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