ORLANDO - Charles Thomas had perhaps his worst game as a Razorback basketball player just a few days before the University of Arkansas left to come to the Old Spice Classic.
The 6-8, 235-pound junior power forward, who was blanked offensively in 15 minutes in a win over Stephen F. Austin, told his head coach it wouldn't happen again.
"Charles told me that once we got here he was going to be really ready," Razorback head coach Stan Heath said. "He said he was going to step up and we would see the real Charles Thomas."
That's just what happened as Thomas came off the bench to play 32 minutes and led the way with 16 points on 6-of-10 field goal shooting and 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
Thomas also took three charges while attempting to take several more.
"I just wanted to come out and add some energy and help out my team," Thomas said. "We knew that this was a good team, but we are a good team and we knew we had to come out and match that intensity. I think after we got over that start we did."
It also was a nice rebound for Darian Townes, who had 12 points and provided some early offense inside when Arkansas was struggling.
Townes was 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-4 from the free throw, scoring 12 points and grabbing 3 boards in 19 minutes worth of action.
"As people around here know, Darian has been kind of a high and low guy and also a rhythm guy," Heath said. "He had a very solid game and really helped us early on with his offense."
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Arkansas entered the game shooting just 61 percent from the free throw line in their first two games and didn't start out like anything was going to be any different on Thursday when the Razorbacks made just half of their first eight.
But the Razorbacks would close the game by hitting 16 of their last 18, including their last 14 straight. That include 12 straight after falling behind 52-47 with just under two minutes left in the game.
"I thought we just got into a nice rhythm where we just stepped to the line with confidence," Heath said. "Once a few of them go down everybody thinks they are going to knock down two as well."
That included two big ones late by Steven Hill, who netted a pair to bring him team within 52-51 with 1:11 left in the game after having missed his first four this season.
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Opposing point guard Gary Ervin and Bryan Mullins both filled up the stat sheet on Thursday afternoon, but at least one of those categories isn't what you are looking to see.
Ervin had 12 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, but seven turnovers.
Mullins had 3 points, 9 assists and 9 turnovers – with fellow backcourt mate Tony Young adding in seven.
Still Southern Illiniois head coach Chris Lowery was real high on Ervin.
Ervin was special, real special, " Lowery said.
Lowery was also real "big on what made the game so tough for his Salukis.
"Their athleticism is phenomenal and they are so big," Lowery said. "Our point guard doesn't really turn it over like that. His play was very uncharacteristic today."
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Through three games, freshman Patrrick Beverley leads the team in scoring with a 16.3 average – due in large part to his 29-point debut as a collegian.
Sonny Weems is averaging 14.3, Gary Ervin 10.7 , Thomas 8.3, Townes 7.3, Hunter 6.7 and Hill 6.0,
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