Xavier University of Louisiana-New Orleans played it first basketball game in 19 months here Halloween night because of a 2005-2006 season that was wiped completely out by Hurricane Katrina.
Things will surely be a little less scary from here on out for the NAIA Gold Rush.
Charles Thomas had 15 points, fellow junior forward Darian Townes 11 and sophomore guard Sean McCurdy 11 as the University of Arkansas opened its two-game exhibition season by downing XUNO 82-49 before an announced crowd of 5.839 at Bud Walton Arena.
"I saw a lot of positives in the game tonight," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "Our defense was good. We forced a lott of turnovers and created pressure. We were able to disrput their offense."
Steven Hill added 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocksVincent Hunter and and Sonny Weems 7 each for Arkansas ia a game in which all 11 Razorback players that participated scored and all were on the court for at least 10 minutes and 8 playing over 17 minutes.
"In the exhibition season we wanted to get everybody out there and create a rhythm," Heath said. "We stressed getting the ball inside. We had some good looks, but missed some layups. We had good energy."
The Razorbacks, who shot 48 percent from the field, scored a whopping 38 points off of 26 Gold Rush turnovers on a night when the visitors shot just 25 percent from the floor and got almost half from points from a 19-of-24 effort from the free throw line.
"Both teams played hard," Xavier-New Orleans head coach Dannton Jackson said. "I was impressed with Arkansas. They caused us a lot of problems tonight. Arkansas forced a lot of turnovers and that was the difference in the game."
The only real disappointing thing on Tuesday night for Arkansas was a 1-of-13 night from beyond the 3-point arc after being sharp in the both practice and the Red-White game.
"I was very surprised by that, very surprised," Heath said. "That is not how we have been shooting the ball in practice and I think maybe some of the guys were rushing their shot due to the excitement of playing someone else."
He also saw some things on defense he wants corrected.
"We are going to challenge our perimeter guys to not give up the drive so much," Heath said. "We played at a solid tempo tonight. It was not slow, but not as fast as I would like. But sometimes the other team doesn't let you play fast. They were having a hard time getting a good shot. Our defense was good. It takes a lot of focus to sustain your focus until the end of the shot clock against our defense."
McCurdy had 7 points and Townes 5 before the first timeout of the second half and soon afterwards Ervin's lay-up at the 15:22 mark had turned a 39-17 halftime lead into a 55-21 advantage for the home team.
McCurdy and junior point guard Gary Ervin combined for 17 points, 8 assists with six turnovers on the night.
"Sean played at a higher level than I thought he might tonight," Heath said. "He played well. We may look at playing Sean and Gary more together."
That margin continued to build throughout the first part of the second half with back-to-back Hill buckets and Patrick Beverley's 3-pointer sending the Razorbacks ahead 66-24 with 12:16 left in the game.
Beverley's dunk with 1:50 left in the game put a punctuation mark on the game and made it 80-46.
Beverley and Ervin both added six points, Stefan Welsh and Cyrus McGowan four each and 6-10 freshman Michael Washington a bucket.
Ervin was not pleased with his team's effort on the night.
"Tonight was just so-so," Ervin said. "Don't play any attention to what you saw tonight. The best is yet to come. You didn't see one of the great pieces of the puzzle tonight."
Ervin was referring to Weems, a junior small forward who had 28 points in the Red-White game, but has battled injuries the past couple of weeks.
"Sonny's got some nicks and injuries and hasn't been practicing much lately," Ervin said. "He couldn't do what you are going to see him do later. You didn't see the things I have seen - the pull-up game he shows in practice. You'll see it later."
Heath said that it was important for Weems to make it through practices to keep his shot intact.
"He has practiced much and he has got to push himself more to get out there," Heath said. "He has got to be more consistent. He has got to be out there at practice every day. Hopefully he learned a lesson tonight."
Thomas had all 11 of his first half points by the 6:37 mark of the first half - a spree capped by an old-fashioned three-point play that boosted the Razorbacks ahead 25-9.
Cyrus McGowan's baseline jumper made it 27-9 and punctuated a 17-2 Razorback run which ended any suspense there might have been to start the game.
The first half lead crested at 23 when McCurdy got loose for a layup that surged Arkansas ahead 39-16 with just over 30 seconds left before intermission.
Arkansas will return to the court next Monday night at 7:05 p.m. for its second exhibition game when it hosts California-Pennsylvania, which is coached by former UA and Eddie Sutton assistant Bill Brown.
The Razorbacks will then open their regular season on Friday, Nov. 19 against Southeast Missouri State.
Stan Heath and the UA staff look on during the Razorbacks' 82-49 win on Tuesday night.
Arkansas 82, XUNO 49
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