Modica, Jefferson Gaining Confidence

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Stan Heath admitted he was concerned last week about the extended minutes backcourt mates Ronnie Brewer and Eric Ferguson logged during the first half of the Southeastern Conference schedule.

But guards Jonathon  Modica and Dontell Jefferson have helped ease Heath's mind the past week.

For the second straight game, Arkansas got quality minutes and solid performances from Modica and Jefferson during its 62-47 win against Georgia in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night. The pair combined for 19 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in 50 minutes, giving the Hogs valuable offensive options and a deep rotation that wore down the undermanned Bulldogs in the second half.

"We need other guys to step up on this team," Brewer said. "This part of the SEC, people are starting to key on you like you saw in the second half. We need other guys to step up and knock down shots. We need that every game, day in, day out."

That's something Heath and the Razorbacks were missing from both players during the first half of the SEC slate. For example, Modica and Jefferson were a combined 2 of 14 from the floor during the 64-52 loss at South Carolina last Wednesday.

But Modica, who had come off the bench for 16 consecutive games before starting the 66-65 win at Ole Miss, followed his 13-point, 7-assist effort against the Rebels with 14 points and 4 rebounds against Georgia. The junior was aggressive on offense in the first half, scoring six of Arkansas' first 12 points.

Modica also reached a milestone against the Bulldogs, notching his 1,000th-career point with an emphatic dunk that gave the Hogs a 53-37 lead midway through the second half. The Smackover native became the 27th player in school history to score at least 1,000 points in their career.

"More than anything else, we need to get (Modica) going," said Heath, who started Modica in a four-guard lineup for the second straight game. "If it takes starting, great. We need to get him going. It's good to see him get that swagger back."

Said Modica: "I feel good passing the ball. I feel good shooting the ball. I've got my swagger back."

Jefferson, whose confidence wavered during the first half of the SEC slate, provided stability off the bench for the second straight game. The junior, who knocked down the game-winning free throw at Ole Miss, spent much of his 20 minutes in a new role at shooting guard and scored 5 points and added 4 rebounds.

Heath said Jefferson's contributions were vital because of Ferguson's struggles against the Bulldogs (1 of 4 shooting and 5 points in 25 minutes). Jefferson stepped on the floor and confidently knocked down back-to-back buckets in the second half to give Arkansas its first double-digit lead at 46-35.

"I just wanted to go out there and bring some energy to the floor," Jefferson said. "I feel (my confidence) coming. Now we just want to make sure we keep each other going and give each other breaks. If one person isn't going well, just step in and pick up the slack. I feel that's going to be a big key for us in all the games we play."

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