While welcoming home an old friend, the University of Arkansas basketball team got just what it needed on Monday in its last dress rehearsal before the regular season.
Even if that didn't look good coming down the home stretch.
Vincent Hunter had 14, Sonny Weems and Gary Ervin 12 each and Charles Thomas added 10 as the Razorbacks completed their two-game exhibition slate with a 75-68 over former Arkansas 1980s assistant Bill Brown's California-Pennsylvania squad before 6,237 at Bud Walton Arena.
"I am a little upset at how we played," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "It was a serious wake-up call for us in the second half, but that may just have been what the doctor ordered. We've got to know that when you have a team down, you have to put them away."
Hunter was 6-of-6 from the field and is 9-of-9 in two exhibition games and also hauled down a team-high 6 rebounds and dished out four assists on Monday night when his team shot 60 percent from the field in the first half and 54 percent for the game.
"I feel a lot more comfortable now," Hunter said. "This was a wake-up call. We can't play like this in the SEC."
Arkansas, which opens its season Friday night against Southeast Missouri State, certainly got a better push from the Vulcans on Monday night than it did the previous week in a 82-49 thrashing of Xavier-New Orleans.
Cal-Pa, which had lost 79-78 at Maryland and 80-65 at No. 4 Pittsburgh in its previous two exhibition games, actually led Arkansas by seven at one point in the first half before the Razorbacks stormed back to take a 39-28 lead to the break.
The Vulcans also whittled a 15-point second-half deficit down to 5 – thanks in part to some poor Arkansas free throw shooting (15-of-31) and double-digit turnovers (17) - in a second half that Arkansas played without as much intensity per Heath.
"I am not real happy with the way we played in that second half," Heath said. "But this was a blessing in disguise for us in a lot of ways. We needed this. Typically you play an exhibition game where it is a 20 to 30-point blowout and you don't really get a whole lot out of it.
"But we found out a lot of things about ourselves tonight before we start the season," Heath added. "Things like what we need to do in late game situations, who is ready to handle those situations and who is not. The biggest message I gave to our team is when you have a chance to put a team away, don't play around, get it done, pick up the intensity, pick up the energy level, make the plays and you of all a sudden you give yourself a cushion.
"If you celebrate on your 3-shot or young dunk, that's when that team has a chance to come right back at you and score and get the momentum and take that away from you," Heath continued. "They did a good job of that."
Arkansas hit 17 of its 28 field goal attempts in the first half – and big men Darian Townes and Steven Hill combined to block five of their eight combined shots on the night.
The second half was a bit of a different story with the Razorbacks still shooting 45.5 percent from the field, but committing 11 of their 17 turnovers.
The Razorbacks looked like they might cruise home when Weems hit two free throws to send Arkansas ahead 52-37 with 13:44 remaining.
Cal-Pa charged back and got to within seven points with just over five minutes left, but couldn't get it down to five until inside the final minute.
"They did a good job of taking the crowd out of the game, a good job of playing at a tempo that frustrated us in some ways," Heath said. "I coached in Division II. I understand that make up of good Division II basketball teams. They are older guys.
"One of their guys was a McDonald's All-American out of high school in Ron Banks," Heath said. "I recruited him (for Michigan State) out of Lansing, Michigan. They have guys on their team with talent."
Kelvin Green had 14 to lead the Vulcans while Osborne Gardner added 11, Calao 11 and Banks and Rob Ramsey seven each for a team that has no one over 6-7 and was outrebounded 38-29.
"I thought our guys competed well in the second half," Brown said. "I'm proud of the way they closed out the game. We have a fairly young team. We look like runts out there. We don't have much size, but they competed."
Beverley added 9 points for Arkansas, Townes 6 points and 3 blocks, Hill chipped in 5 points, 4 rebounds and 5 blocks and Ervin - who hit a 3-pointer 44.9 seconds left that sealed the deal - passed out 6 assists.
"We have got to get it together," Ervin said. "We have a lot of tough games ahead of us, especially in the SEC. We were terrrible with the free throws tonight. We can watch film and minimize turnovers, but we have to get back in the gym and work on free throws."
Arkansas 75, Cal-Pa 68
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