It appears these new guys are going to be okay - and the older ones are, too.
That was the sentiment of the fans and the University of Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath after the Red team downed the White 97-94 in overtime Friday night before 5,742 fans at Bud Walton Arena in an intrasquad game.
Newcomers Sonny Weems (28 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), Stefan Welsh (18 points, 5 3-pointers) and Gary Ervin (17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) led the the Red squad while freshman Patrick Beverley turned in 25 points to lead the White.
But you also had outstanding performances from the holdovers with three double-doubles from the White team's Darian Townes (21 points, 16 rebounds) and Charles Thomas (20 points, 10 rebounds) and the Red's Vincent Hunter (15 points, 14 rebounds) with Red center Steven Hill (11 points, 9 rebounds) just missing that honor by a single board.
"I thought the guys played like it was a real game," Heath said. "It went down to the wire, we had some situations - some of them went good, some didn't go so good. But to score that many points in a Red-White game without any subs was pretty impressive to me.
"The defense at times was good, at times it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be," Heath added, " but I really thought the guy's competed and went at each other very hard.
Michael Washington –a 6-10, 230-pound freshman forward and the fifth of this team's additions - had 8 points and 6 rebounds while playing 17 minutes as he works his way into shape after joining the team just a week ago.
Sean McCurdy added 14 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists for the White while teammates Cyrus McGowan (8 points and 7 rebounds) and Preston Cranford's 6 point rounded out the losing's team scoring.
"The thing I did like at the end from an offensive standpoint is that there was a lot of balance," Heath said. "I think there were eight to nine players in double figures so that means the ball was being shared, guys were playing in areas where they were very comfortable and efficient. To play this so early, a week after we got started, there were a lot of positives out there."
The game had a chance to go to a second overtime, but Hunter's block of a Beverley 3-point attempt kept that from happening.
"The overtime situation was game-like," Heath said. "This is such a good teaching tool for us. The fans were interested, I was interested, the guys wanted to keep playing. This was a win-win for everyone."
Welsh – who had 15 of his 18 points in the first half – scored the first points in overtime to break a 94-94 deadlock and lead his team to victory.
"I knew for us to win we had to be more balanced and get the big guys involved in the second half," Welsh said. "The game gave me a good feel for my teammates and college basketball. We have good shooters, rebounders and shot blockers. We're very balanced."
It was many people on hand's first chance to see Arkansas' newcomers and despite the fast pace and just one or two subs the two squads combined for just 26 turnovers.
"We lost some very good players, but I think everyone can see why we are going to be just as good and I think better than we were last season," Thomas said. "We are going to be really good."
The Red team hit 10-of-23 3-pointers on a night when they shot 44.3 percent from the field overall while the White knocked down 7-of-25 treys while shooting 40.8 percent overall.
The White stayed in the game by getting to the line 36 times and converting on 25 while the Red knocked down17-of-27 and had a 53-45 rebound advantage.
Weems and Welsh helped get the Red out to a 7-0 lead and had combined for 31 of the Red team's points as they took a 49-46 lead to halftime.
‘Sonny is very fluid out there," Heath said. "I looked up one time and thought he had about 10 and he had 20. He gets things done and I thought his mid-range game was dynamic. There are a lot of 15 and 12 foot shots that he just bangs down. He got a lot of things done."
That included a flurry of activity during a three-minute stretch that brought the fans to their feet roaring.
Welsh knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in less than a minute, Ervin added one, Townes scored low, Hill answered with a blossoming hook shot and then Townes got loose for a slam, Thomas had an old-fashioned three-point and Beverley and Weems got fast-break buckets.
"The pace really picked up and I thought the intensity was really high at that point," Heath said. "There were some block shots, there was some dunks, transition baskets and our fans feed off of that and that was a good sign for us. I suspect when we are a full team that instead of a two or three-minute span, I expect that to be a five or six-minute span and then in the second half I expect another one."
Townes has been challenged to be a better rebounder this season and Heath liked what he saw on Friday night as the big man grabbed four offensive and 12 defensive caroms.
"Darian had a nice game," Heath said. "To go up against Steven Hill and to put up those kind of numbers is very impressive. He was very active and around the basket. He got them in a lot of different ways – in transition or in the post or just being available for passes. He did a very good job and I was very impressed. He has been playing that way every since we started practice. I am looking for big things out of Darian."
It was clear that none of his newcomers lack for confidence or aggressiveness.
"I don't think those guys are bashful or shy at all," Heath said. "It's a fine line. I want them to be confident, I want them to go out there and be aggressive, but soon though they will have to learn what's a good shot and what's not a good shot and how to utilize their teammates to make them better. I would rather start from the aggressive standpoint and scale back then the other way."
Red 97, White 94 (OT)
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