Razorbacks Run Down Rebels

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Stan Heath said Southeastern Conference basketball can turn into a meat-grinder.

On Wednesday night against Ole Miss, the Razorbacks turned the crank.

Arkansas made Rebel sausage out of a short-handed Ole Miss team without leading post player Tommie Eddie and won its SEC opener for the first time in three seasons under Heath with a 69-46 victory before 18,016 in Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks (13-1, 1-0 in SEC) held Ole Miss (9-5, 0-1) to 25.5 percent shooting on 12 of 47 attempts and scored 22 points off 18 second-half turnovers to break open a close game.

The 23-point win was the largest Arkansas margin of victory in an SEC game since a 107-83 win against Alabama in 1998 and the Hogs will try to extend their eight-game winning streak at Florida (8-3, 0-0) on Saturday.

"Protecting home court is key," Heath said. "We wanted to get off to a good start. Obviously, confidence for our players to get a win against an SEC opponent was good for us."

After shooting 9 of 24 in the first half and holding a 27-23 lead at intermission, Arkansas hit 15 of 27 shots (55.6 percent) in the second half and allowed only eight Ole Miss field-goal attempts in the first 11 minutes while forcing 14 turnovers and going on a 21-10 run to lead 48-33 with 9:24 to play.

"Arkansas and Ole Miss is never pretty, but the only thing that counts is the left-hand column and we got the win," said Arkansas sophomore Ronnie Brewer, who had 13 points and team highs in rebounds (7) and steals (5). "We're happy with that."

Ole Miss was without Eddie, second on the team with 12.2 points and first with 4.6 rebounds, who stayed in Oxford for "personal reasons," according to a press release issued by the university.

Rebels coach Rod Barnes said he found out Eddie wouldn't be available before the team bus left Oxford.

Freshman Jeremy Parnell of Gosnell made his first career start but struggled on 0 of 3 shooting, including a missed dunk, and had 2 rebounds and a point on 1 of 2 free throws.

"We run everything through (Eddie)," Barnes said. "They were able to guard us better on the perimeter. We didn't have long to make an adjustment."

Even without Eddie, Ole Miss still outrebounded Arkansas 42-29, but the Rebels also missed 35 shots.

Arkansas also hit only 18 of 33 free throws (48.6 percent).

"We didn't box out worth a crap today, so that didn't make me real happy," Heath said. "If we would have cashed in from the free-throw line, it would have given us more breathing room earlier in the game."

The second half was all Arkansas, as it often has been this season.

The Razorbacks have outscored teams by an average of 19 points in the second half through 14 games and Heath figured a second-half surge was coming.

"I really thought we'd wear them down a little bit," Heath said. "We have more bodies, more depth, bigger players. In the second half it was more apparent they were a little tired. We got a lot of steals, deflections, and they weren't able to hit perimeter shots."

Barnes denied that Arkansas' pressure got into his team's legs, but the Rebels' 3 of 17 night from the 3-point line was 24 points below their season average and Arkansas continually beat them to the rim in transition.

"We turned it over way too many times," Barnes said. "It helps their pressure even more."

The first half looked like a typical Arkansas-Ole Miss game with both teams combining to shoot 14 of 47 from the field.

Arkansas trailed 15-14 after a Brandon Patterson 3-pointer with 7:48 to play in the first half, but freshman Charles Thomas knocked down a shot in the lane to put Arkansas ahead for good.

Eric Ferguson, who led Arkansas with 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting and had 6 assists with just 2 turnovers, collected one of his 3 steals and fed Jonathon Modica for a fast break that led to two free throws.

Freshman center Darian Townes, who scored 12 points on 4 of 8 shooting and grabbed 4 rebounds two days after spraining his right knee, kicked out of a double team to Brewer for a 3-pointer, then grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to put Arkansas ahead 24-20.

Ferguson then took a defensive rebound and raced downcourt to feed Dontell Jefferson for a layup and a foul for a 27-20 lead.

Arkansas turned the screws defensively in the second half, forcing a shot-clock violation, two 5-second violations and an over-and-back turnover while Ole Miss committed two intentional fouls trying to stop breakaway attempts by Brewer and Famutimi.

After the over-and-back turnover and inbounds from under the Ole Miss basket, Townes missed a short shot, but took a feed from Modica for a thunderous dunk to put Arkansas ahead 46-33.

Modica made two more layups, Townes hit a pair of free throws and Ferguson nailed a deep 3-pointer from behind a Brewer screen for a 55-38 lead.

"The second half is our half," Townes said. "We come out with more fire."

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