Arkansas 83, Western Illinois 54

Ronnie Brewer breaks out of a scoring slump with 23 points and fills up the stat sheet, Darian Townes adds 19 points, 11 rebounds anbd 5 blocks and Jonathon Modica 16 points as Arkansas (11-2) finishes up its nonconference slate with a 83-54 victory Sunday night before 12,013 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

University of Arkansas junior guard Ronnie Brewer busted out of his scoring slump in a big way and sophomore Darian Townes showed what a big-time, big man performance looks like as the Razorbacks put their nonconference slate to bed on Sunday night.

Brewer had 23 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals while Townes had a double-double off the bench with 19 points and 11 rebounds and also blocked 5 shots as Arkansas hammered Western Illinois 83-54 before 12,013 fans who showed up on New Year's Night at Bud Walton Arena.

"I felt the game went according to plan tonight," Razorback head coach Stan Heath said. "We had a good start and expanded our lead. At times we could have executed better, but we started the second half with a bang and a good tempo."

Jonathon  Modica chipped in 16 points in the ninth straight win for Arkansas (11-2), who will now open its SEC schedule with a road trip to Mississippi State (10-3) on Saturday night at 7 p.m.

"I feel like we have beaten everybody who we were supposed to beat," Heath said. "We played teams that play different ways, including zone and man-to-man defense. We had to play different styles of offense to beat our opponents. I feel we are now ready for what is down the road in conference play."

The win also lifted Heath's mark at Arkansas to 50-49 and over .500 for the first time since his initial 9-18 campaign at the school.

"When I came here we all knew it was going to be tough," Heath said. "Somebody had to take a bullet for a couple of years here. "I took that bullet and am proud of where we are headed now."

It was the third game in four days for the Leathernecks (4-7) and it showed according to their head coach Derek Thomas.

"Arkansas is a great team, just a great team, certainly one of the best teams we have played this year," said Thomas, whose team has also lost to Indiana and Kansas this season. "But my guys said they felt embarrased and things went wrong for them. They played hard and I love them for that, but Arkansas turned it up another level and we didn't have enough left." Brewer, who had led the SEC in scoring since the start of the season but had dropped to fourth on the SEC scoring chart after games of 12 vs. Texas Tech and a career-tying low of 2 against Texas Pan-American, got off early against the Leathernecks.

He scored his team's first five points on Sunday night, knocking down a 3-pointer and then taking a steal in for a dunk.

Brewer, who had been battling the flu, also passed his dad Ron on the UA's career steals list with the son's 176 now besting the elder Brewer's 171.

"I definitely feel a lot better tonight," Brewer said. "All I can do is play hard as I can and give all I can give."

Heath, who had challenged Brewer, thought he really stepped it up.

"I think he really responded," Heath said. "He came out fast and scored the first five points of the game and really did a lot of good things tonight."

As did Townes, who has now scored 27 points and grabbed 23 rebounds in his last 43 minutes on the court.

"I have been watching Darian since he came back (from Christmas break) and he is really beginning to play his best basketball," Heath said. "...It's the same thing that happened last year when he got the break and only had to worry about playing basketball. It was great to see."

It also comes when Steven Hill, the Razorbacks' 7-0 center, is struggling.

"He has a bone bruise and you can tell it is really bugging him and he is just trying to play through it," Heath said. "He is not the happiest guy out there anyway but I did think he had a totally different demeanor tonight."

Arkansas shot 50.9 percent from the field, 63.2 percent from the line and 27.8 percent from 3-point range while forcing 24 turnovers and committing 13 of its own.

They got a chance to empty the bench in their biggest blowout since a 77-35 pasting of Southern Miss back on Nov. 30.

"Everyone was playing their role tonight," Townes said. Ronnie made them turn the ball over and we scored off that. Once it was the second half, we had fun and everybody was playing their role really well."

Arkansas, which scored just 19 points in the first half of a 66-38 win over UTPA, had built a 41-27 lead by intermission on Sunday night.

The Razorbacks then roared out of the locker room with a 16-2 surge, one that started with a Townes' lay-up and included 11 points by Brewer.

The last four of them were on free throws - two courtesy of a technical on the Western Illinois bench - and pushed the lead to 57-29 with 16:17 left in the game.

That lead crested at 28 again when Modica got loose for a slam that sent Arkansas ahead 72-44 with 7:57 left on the clock.

"Our winning streak means a lot," Modica said. "In Maui we had two critical losses we could have won. It feels good to bounce back, come home and win nine straight."

Arkansas native NaVonte Kentle, a 6-8 sophomore who led Pine Bluff to a state title his junior year in high school, had 11 points for the Leathernecks.

The Razorbacks were 13-1 and 1-0 in conference action last season going to Mississippi State, but beleive they are better prepared this season.

"Right now we are more on the same page than last year," Brewer said. "We are clicking better and we are more advanced than we were at this time last year."





Arkansas' Jonathon Modica (24) and Western Illinois' Fred Oguns battle for a loose ball.



Arkansas head coach Stan Heath looks on in a break in the action on Sunday night.


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