Brewer, Hogs Dispatch Physical Bearcats

FAYETTEVILLE -- It only took Ronnie Brewer 22 minutes of playing time to score 22 points, lead Arkansas past Southwest Baptist 86-49 and enlist SBU coach Jeff Guiot in his fan club Friday night.

"Brewer is a handful," Guiot said following the exhibition opener for both teams. "I think he'll be a lottery pick, whether it's (after) this year or the following year."

Hogs coach Stan Heath liked the performance of his versatile 6-foot-7 junior also.

"Defensively, Ronnie can read a play and get a piece of the ball," Heath said. "He's a very good player. When I saw how physical the game was, I decided to save him the last 14 or 15 minutes."

Brewer scored 12 of his 16 first-half points during a 17-0 Arkansas run that transformed a 14-9 lead into a 31-9 laugher. Brewer also had 5 of Arkansas' 10 steals.

The Razorbacks led 44-21 at halftime despite the absence of 6-foot-10 forward Darian Townes, who sufffered a sprained toe late in Thursday's practice.

Forward Charles Thomas assumed Townes' starting spot and contributed 15 points and 5 rebounds.

"I didn't even know Darian wasn't playing until right before the game started," Thomas said. "It came as a big shock. I feel I played pretty good and did what the coaches wanted."

Frans Steyn, the Bearcats' 7-2 center who had 9 points and 7 rebounds, called the game a good learning experience and termed Hogs center Steven Hill "a very good player."

Hill had 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 26 minutes.

"Maybe Darian and I can play together somewhere down the line," Hill said.

Arkansas senior guard Jonathon Modica notched 15 points and 9 rebounds, while committing 4 of Arkansas' 18 turnovers. He low-fived a cowering cheerleader after one of his fast-break buckets.

Heath commended the Hogs' defense and hustle which SBU point guard Sheldon Pace also noticed.

"I mean, their defense steps out and makes it hard to get into your offense," said Pace, who had as many turnovers (six) as points.

Heath said Hogs point guard Dontell Jefferson (6 points, 5 assists, 2 turnovers) had a solid game.

So did freshman point guard Sean McCurdy, who scored eight points in 23 minutes, with 2 assists, 1 turnover and 1 jawing episode with 6-9, 245-pound Bearcat Owen Newman.

"Sean is a tough kid," Heath said. "I like that in him. He's got a motor that goes 100 miles an hour."

McCurdy had one four-point possession, making a free throw, rebounding his own missed free throw and burying a 3-pointer.

Heath was proud that Vincent Huinter scored 10 points in 18 minutes for Arkansas and "didn't back down" against players 40 pounds heavier, even after getting kneed in the thigh.

A crowd generously estimated at 10,243 watched in Bud Walton Arena as a total of 48 fouls stretched the game beyond two hours.

"For an exhibition game, Southwest Baptist was good," Heath said. "I didn't realize how physical a team they were. They were pushing and fighting through screens which was good for us and we responded. I thought we looked very efficient on offense early."

With both Townes and guard Eric Ferguson (broken nose) out, Heath said he had to use some "strange-looking" lineups in the second half.

"We got a little stagnant at times," he said.

Jason Jemison led SBU with 13 points off the bench, but made just 5-of-17 floor shots.

Guiot said about Arkansas, "They're very athletic, long and they're a strong rebounding team. It's a matter of their playing with confidence over the course of the season."

Heath said all the Hogs should be at 100 percent health by the Maui Invitational in two weeks.

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