Jones Plays Strong For Razorbacks

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Arkansas forward Michael Jones didn't care about making his first start of the season against LSU on Wednesday night.

He also shrugged off scoring 15 points and didn't dwell on playing a season-high 29 minutes.

Don't get him wrong, Jones was appreciative of every point and minute after serving as the 10th man off coach Stan Heath's bench this season. But Arkansas' lone senior ached because of the point he didn't get in the 66-63 overtime loss.

"It's a bittersweet feeling because we lost," Jones said. "I just wanted one more."

The Little Rock native was one of two new players in Arkansas' starting five -- along with center Darian Townes -- and responded by giving the Hogs a much-needed offensive boost. Jones, who became the 10th Razorback to earn a start this season, scored Arkansas' first five points and was the central figure in the late-game drama at the Maravich Assembly Center.

The 6-foot-9, 222-pound Jones, who teammate Ronnie Brewer called "instant offense," thought he knocked down the first-game winning shot of his career when he drilled a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in regulation. The scoreboard read 59-58 as time expired, but officials ruled Jones' jumper was a two-pointer and it pushed the game to overtime tied at 58-58.

"It was a blow," Jones said. "Not only for me, but for the whole team."

But the fact Jones was even on the court in crunch time to feel it was a big step.

Jones entered the LSU game averaging 7.1 minutes in 15 outings, staying on the bench throughout Arkansas' 62-52 win at Missouri in December. Jones has played six minutes or less in 10 of his appearances and was eighth in scoring (3.5 points).

"My parents, family, coaches, teammates, everybody told me to keep my head up even though I was struggling," Jones said. "I never gave up. I figured that once we got into (Southeastern Conference) play, my presence would be needed.

"People told me to be prepared for whenever it came back around."

He played a combined three minutes during Arkansas' first two conference games against Ole Miss and at Florida, but finally got his chance at Mississippi State.

Jones scored nine points and logged 20 minutes during the Hogs' embarrassing, 80-55 loss in Starkville, Miss. He provided a spark off the bench after Arkansas fell into a 21-2 hole, knocking down two 3-pointers in the first half.

Heath was impressed with Jones' play and decided to slip him into Wednesday's lineup in place of forward Olu Famutimi, who had started the first 17 games. Heath's primary goal was finding a way to get the Razorbacks off to a good start and had a hunch Jones' experience would be beneficial in his fourth career trip to LSU.

"He came in and he was aggressive. He was under control," Heath said. "I thought, with him being a senior now, he would be probably a guy that can go on the road and help us get off to a good start. Mike responded real well."

Jones was 6 of 10 from the field, 3 of 7 from 3-point range and added three rebounds against the Razorbacks. He led Arkansas in scoring in the first half with eight points and played an even bigger role after the break.

Along with Brewer (17 points) and Famutimi (13), Jones shouldered Arkansas' offensive load. He scored five straight points to give the Razorbacks a 49-44 lead midway through the second half and was inches from winning the game in regulation.

Jones had so much success, Heath drew up a play to free Jones behind the 3-point arc with the Hogs' trailing by three at the end of overtime. Jones got the ball and got off a shot as time expired, but it fell short.

"He brought us some intensity," Brewer said. "He got us off to a good start. He scored our first five points. He just helped our team out today. He knocked down big shot after big shot. He was a plus for us.

"We were looking for him on the last play because he was knocking down shots. It just happened to come up a little short."

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