Between true freshman shooting guard Patrick Beverley and mammoth junior center Steven Hill, there were plenty of shots flying to and away from the baskets at Bud Walton Arena Friday night.
Beverley had 16 of his career-high 29 points and the 7-0, 252-pound Hill 5 of his 7 blocks in the first 20 minutes as the University of Arkansas began putting away Southeast Missouri State right before intermission and eventually rolled over the Redhawks 92-52 before 11,952 fans.
"This is a really exciting weekend and we wanted to make sure we got it started off right and really set the tone," said UA head coach Stan Heath about the basketball game and the Razorback football game with Tennessee on Saturday. "We played great defense and I am really impressed with the intensity."
Sonny Weems added 12 points and Vincent Hunter 9 points and 7 rebounds for the Razorbacks in a season opener for both teams that brought back former Arkansas assistant and current SEMO head coach Scott Edgar to Fayetteville.
"Arkansas was solid and impressive tonight," said Edgar, who was a Razorback assistant under Nolan Richardson from 1985-1991. "They were very solid inside as well. Tonight will be a long (seven-hour) ride home. The ride home also seems longer after a defeat. I felt like we competed for 17 minutes and Arkansas played good he first 17 minutes. Right before the half we just faded."
Beverley - who led the city of Chicago in scoring last season with over 32 points per game - was 11-of-13 from the field on the night, including nailing 6-of-7 3-point attempts.
He also had five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"That (playing in Chicago) prepares him," Heath said. "It totally makes him very ready. He's playing against guys that are high-major players and are now all around the country. The city of Chicago is unbelievable with the talent they have and the competition level that they play at. He won't be intimidated, he won't be starry-eyed. He likes that challenge, he thrives on thatr challenge. He probably plays better when its like that than if he loses that edge."
Beverley, who exhorted the crowd by waving his hands to them on several occassions, was clear throughout the postgame interview sessions to deflect the credit to his teammates.
"Our coaches told me to shoot with confidence," Beverley said. "My teammates did a great job of driving and kicking it out. My passion for the game is one of my biggest assets. I really like to get the crowd into it because with a crowd into it you can do so much more as a basketball team."
That came on a night where the Razorbacks shot 57.1 percent from the field and knocked down 10-of-17 3-point attempts while blocking 11 shots.
That sizzzling shooting came after two exhibition wins where Arkansas did not shoot very well from the perimeter.
"Our coaches worked us hard in practice against a zone," Beverley said. "After I hit that first shot, the rim got big, then I hit the second one and the rim got as big as an ocean."
That's likely what Hill must have seemed like as well as SEMO had made field field goals and he had blocked five of their attempts at one point in the first half.
"Steven Hill is an amazing player," Heath said. "It's a different ballgame when he is playing."
Arkansas also improved slightly at the free throw line, going 18-of-29 after a 16-of-31 performance there during a 75-68 exhibition win over California-Pennsylvania back on Monday.
Weems, also playing his first career major college game, was 5-of-8 from the line to lead that effort.
Charles Thomas added 9 points and junior point guard Gary Ervin 8 points and 6 assistsas everyone who played score except for Preston Cranford, who did play 10 minutes.
About the only negative was 22 turnovers to 21 assists against Edgar's squad, who is playing what he calls "Fast and Furious" as a take-off of Richardson's trademark "40 minutes of Hell."
The Razorbacks did win the battle of the boards 42-30 and had 11 steals and held the Redhawks to a 29.3 shooting from ghe field on the night, including 22.6 percent in the second half.
"I am very happy with our young guys," Heath said. "I thought they came ready to play. They showed flashes and then settled down. The way we played tonight is exactly how we practice everyday. I saw a lot of positives from these ballclub tonight."
Arkansas led just 21-20 early midway through the first and SEMO squad was still within 33-27 before the Razorbacks put on a blitz in the 150 seconds of the half that probably brought back memories of the old days for Edgar.
Beverley's last of four first-half 3-pointers started a 10-3 spree to end the half with Weems' 12-footer and Hunter's 3-pointer pushing Arkansas ahead 43-30 by intermission.
The Razorbacks then ripped off the first six points of the second half with Hill's rebound slam capping that early spurt and pushing Arkansas ahead 49-30 with 17:12 left in the game.
The lead just continued to build with the home team pushing its lead to 60-34 on two Weems' free throws at the 12:39 mark, to 71-39 on Beverley's lay-up with 9:11 remaning and up to 35 when freshman Michael Washington slammed one home to make it 77-42 with 7:22 left.
Both sophomore McGowan - who is coming back from an injury - and true freshman Washington played meaning that neither will be redshirting this season.
The Razorback reserves then finished things off although Beverley got in late and put in his final two points with 23.4 seconds left to put the capper on the win.
Arkansas will return to the court next Saturday when it hosts Stephen F. Austin in a game that has been moved to 7:05 p.m. to not conflict with the Razorbacks' football game at Mississippi State that has a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
MORE DETAILS AND QUOTES TO BE ADDED SOON
Arkansas 92, SEMO 52
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