Hogs Pound Portland State, Eye Maui

FAYETTEVILLE -- Playing as if primed for Maui, Arkansas sprinted to a 60-29 first-half lead and cruised to a 107-69 win over Portland State before 12,354 delighted fans in Bud Walton Arena on Friday night.

Dontell Jefferson tied a school record with 15 assists, Ronnie Brewer scored a career-high 24 points, Charles Thomas had career highs with 20 points and 7 rebounds and Jonathon Modica scored 16 points as the Razorbacks (1-0) stopped a three-game losing streak dating to last season.

Not since the year 2000, when Arkansas defeated Jackson State 107-78, had the Hogs scored this many points.

Jackson State was also the victim in 1995 when Kareem Reid established the single-game assists record that Jefferson tied Friday night.

Hogs coach Stan Heath put Jefferson back in the game after Steven Hill fouled out with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left, moments after little Sammy Munsey had hit a 3 to put Arkansas up 100-65 and raise the roof.

"I mentioned to Dontell that he needed one more assist," Heath said. "But I'm not sure our guys listened to me."

Jefferson said he didn't realize Heath was talking about the school record, but he still fed fellow point guard Sean McCurdy for a 3-pointer and his 15th assist for a 103-67 lead.

Jefferson nearly broke the record after that without realizing it, but Preston Cranford just missed a jumper off Jefferson's feed.

"It's exciting now that I know about it," Jefferson said. "I just want to thank my teammates for making all those shots."

Brewer, who scored an eye-opening 20 points in the first half including two reverse dunks and a sling dunk, settled for 24 points and a team-high 5 steals in 27 minutes.

"Coach wanted to save me a little for the upcoming games," Brewer said. "I thought our team played with a lot of intensity tonight. We rebounded well and played good defense."

The Hogs played good man-to-man defense in the first half but allowed 40 second-half points while working on a zone defense Heath said the team might need in the EA Sports Maui Invitational next Monday through Wednesday.

Jake Schroeder, a smooth-stroking guard, took game scoring honors with 26 points for Portland State -- 16 in the second half.

"Our coaches knew from watching Schroeder in warmups that he was a big-time shooter," Heath said. "I thought Modica did a good job on him defensively in the first half.

Scott Morrison, a 6-foot-11 center, had 8 points and 10 rebounds for the Vikings, but 6-10 Darian Townes countered with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocked shots for Arkansas.

That was seven more blocks than Hill had, but Hill tickled the fans by scoring six points in 14 minutes.

"Steven was very aggressive on offense," Heath said.

Freshman forward Cyrus McGowan gave the Hogs 6 points and 7 rebounds, while freshman McCurdy had 7 points and 6 assists in an energetic performance.

Thomas had fans chanting his name after a second-half flurry in which he hit a bank shot, scored on a fast-break pass from Jefferson, outfought a Viking for a follow shot and then flew over the press table while hustling after the ball.

"Charles dived into the cheerleaders and I was a little jealous," Heath joked.

Thomas said, "That was a big honor when they chanted my name. I've seen that happen at a place like Duke. It gives you a boost of energy."

Thomas helped Arkansas outrebound Portland State 44-32 -- a margin Heath said should have been a little larger.

But the Hogs gave Heath little to complain about. Their 19-0 run in the first half -- through three timeouts -- turned a 14-10 lead into a rout.

"I really liked our focus," Heath said. "Even in warmups, I felt we were anxious to play. I was very impressed with Ronnie, and Dontell did a great job of setting the table. Townes and Thomas -- I loved their hustle and energy. McGowan was aggressive on the boards, and Sean played very well in the first half."

Modica, who had three steals but just one rebound, said, "I thought we came out and played well as a team, but defensively we kind of slacked off in the second half."

Brewer made 9-of-16 floor shots, pleasing but not surprising Heath.

"He's been shooting this way since the summer," Heath said. "Ronnie is using his legs and getting a good arch on the ball."

Heath said he would wait until Sunday night before deciding whether suspended guard Eric Ferguson can play against No. 3 Connecticut on Monday.

Both Ferguson and injured Vincent Hunter (bruised knee) will make the trip.

"Hunter thinks he can do some things," Heath said. "He went through a skeleton practice Thursday and moved pretty good. But it may be Tuesday or Wednesday before we know. I don't want to rush him."

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