Brewer Sizzles; Hogs Pound Leathernecks

FAYETTEVILLE — Ronnie Brewer erased any doubts about his physical condition on Sunday night, gathering 23 points to lead Arkansas past Western Illinois 83-54 in front of 12,013 in Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks (11-2) led 41-27 at halftime — which apparently was Brewer's cue to take the game over.

In the first 3 minutes, 43 seconds of the second half, Brewer poured in 11 points as Arkansas raced to a 57-29 advantage and put the game away.

"This was probably the best I've felt in awhile," Brewer said. "I was near 100 percent. Before some other games, I didn't feel as well."

Brewer felt frisky enough to get five steals, putting him five ahead of his father, Ron Brewer, on the UA career list with 176.

Darian Townes complemented Brewer well with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. Jonathon  Modica added 16 points for the Razorbacks.

Townes' play did not surprise Arkansas coach Stan Heath, who said, "Darian is starting to play his best basketball. His defense has improved tremendously. He's not giving up as many plays, and he's playing a lot harder."

NaVonta Kentle of Pine Bluff led Western Illinois (4-7) with 11 points, followed by Troy Okeson with 10.

David Jackson, the Leathernecks' leading scorer, had a frustrating night with just six points and a technical foul.

Townes said he realized early that he could have a big night against the shorter Leathernecks.

"I can always see on my first shot how the other team is going to play me," Townes said. "Tonight I saw they were playing me non-aggressive, so I just went at them."

A highlight came when Townes blocked his fifth shot to start a fast break, then ran the floor and got a swooping dunk on the other end for a 70-44 Arkansas lead.

"I was real aggressive on the defensive end," Townes said. "I'm trying to contend with Steve (Hill) in there, and tonight Western Illinois was doing a lot of bumping."

Hill, who suffered a bone bruise on his right arm, had no points or rebounds in 18 minutes.

"That bruise is bugging him," Heath said. "It affected him. Steven is never the happiest looking guy on the court, but he didn't have a positive demeanor tonight."

Townes said, "Steve can get treatment on his arm tomorrow and he'll be ready for Mississippi State on Saturday. We've got to get ready for the Southeastern Conference."

First, Heath said he would take one night to enjoy Arkansas' nine-game winning streak.

He's 50-49 in his fourth year as UA coach, and 80-55 overall including a 30-6 season at Kent State.

"I count that first year," he said, grinning. "We knew when we came here it was going to be a couple of years before things got right. I'm never going to catch Bob Knight and some of those guys, but I'm going to enjoy this tonight."

Heath said he was glad that the Hogs have faced a variety of defenses and strategies this season, such as Western Illinois' zone and deliberate offense — which should prepare them for SEC play.

In contrast to Friday's 19-point first half against Texas-Pan American, Arkansas scored 41 points in the first half and 42 in the second half against the Leathernecks.

"Ronnie stepped up and performed better tonight," Heath said. "He made things happen."

Senior point guard Dontell Jefferson had eight assists for Arkansas, and freshman Sean McCurdy came off the bench to hit two 3-pointers for the second game in a row. McCurdy also had three of Arkansas' 14 steals in his 19 minutes.

Western Illinois outrebounded Arkansas 34-32, with Okeson and Eliz Cepeda grabbing six boards each.

"I'm greedy, because I want to win that stat every time," Heath said. "But I've gotta accept it a little bit on a night when they had 24 turnovers. I just don't like seeing they got 15 offensive rebounds — you don't want to give up more than 10."

The Hogs' final margin matched their largest of the game. They took a 79-50 lead on Vincent Hunter's follow shot. Hunter had eight points in 15 minutes.

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