If the University of Arkansas players take semester tests later this week in the manner in which they played on Tuesday night, expect the questions early in the first and second halves of the exam to give them some difficulty.
But overall they should will end up strong and cetainly get a passing grade.
That sums up the Razorbacks' performance in a 75-59 win over Central Michigan Tuesday night before 8,316 fans at Bud Walton Arena in their last game before a nine-day break for exams.
"With finals coming up and guys minds possibly on a lot of things dealing with that, I was a little worried about our focus, especially against a quality team," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "But for the most part, I thought we came out and took care of business."
Charles Thomas led the way for Arkansas (7-1) with 14 points and 6 rebounds while fellow junior starter Sonny Weems chipped in 13 and Steven Hill 10 points in the win.
Heath welcomed the improvement he saw from Arkansas (7-1) from a road loss to Missouri last Thursday and a home win over Missouri-Kansas City Saturday in which his team struggled in the opening half.
"We looked better tonight," Heath said. "We fixed some things with struggled with and had a good start with a lead. We gave up a few things but we finished plays...I was pleased with about 90 percent of what I saw at there tonight."
That included a reduction in turnovers for Arkansas, which has been averaging a whopping 19 a game.
The Razorbacks had just three in the first half on Tuesday night and 12 in the game - some of them coming after the bench got emptied late.
That lower number of miscues came after practices Sunday and Monday where individual running occurred for each turnover.
"We are going to man up on those turnovers from now on now in practice," Heath said. "We had them running at the end of practice. You run for the ones you get. It's amazing how many guys cut it down to two or three during the entire practice."
That will certainly come after the finals break when after hosting Oakland on Thursday, Dec. 14, the Razorbacks will then play Texas Tech in North Little Rock, travel to Texas and then host Oral Roberts - which beat Kansas on the Jayhawks' home court - all before Christmas.
"We need to get tested and we need to know for sure our strengths and our weaknesses before we head in the SEC," Heath said. "That is a brutal test right there and we have to prepare ourselves."
Thomas, who started the game by taking some wild shots that earned him a spot next to Heath on the bench, said afterwards he wished Arkansas didn't have the long lay-off.
"We don't want to take this time off," Thomas said. "We need to get better. When you have the other scoring threats we have, it makes it easier for me to get oppportunities. We got lots of improvement to make before the tougher part of our schedule."
Central Michigan's Chris Kellerman led the way for his team with 14 points while Giordan Watson, who was averaging 17 points entering the game, had just 12 on 4-of-15 shooting.
"I thought our guys did a great job on Watson," Heath said. "We wanted to cut them off at the head and I think that is what we did."
Central Michigan first-year head coach Ernie Zeigler, a good friend of Heath's, expected that strategy.
"We knew their focus would be to pressure Giordan Watson," Zeigler said. "Arkansas was very successful in attacking their game plan. I thought we made some made some adjustments at halftime and we did a good job relieving the pressure. Arkansas is a good team and will definitely be an NCAA team."
Thomas' lay-up gave Arkansas the lead for good at 3-2, but it took awhile before the Razorbacks started to build up a healthy cushion.
The Razorbacks did so with a 15-2 run, including nine unanswered points to start the spree – one that was capped when Weems hit from the right baseline to make it 26-12 with 4:13 left in the half.
Beverley's 3-pointer right before halftime sent Arkansas to the locker room with a 36-22 advantage.
But Central Michigan cut it to 36-28 by hitting two straight 3-pointers in the first minute the second half, but Heath called a timeout and that would be as close as the Chippewas would get the rest of the game.
The Razorbacks responded by going to Darian Townes (7 points, 4 blocks) twice in a row for buckets inside.
"They got a lot of production from their big guys tonight," Watson said.
Hill's slam off an in-bounds play had built the lead to 48-32 with 13:57 left in the game before a role reversal pushed that lead out even further.
That happened when Weems, the high-fyling small forward, threw an alley-oop pass to 6-0 point guard Gary Ervin as the Razorbacks surged ahead 57-36 at the 9:39 mark.
"They have been talking about doing that when the time came," Heath said.
By the time Sean McCurdy's second 3-pointer of the game nestled in the nets, Arkansas had taken a 70-47 lead with 3:05 left in the game.
McCurdy had 9 points, Patrick Beverley and Townes 7 each and Ervin 6 points and 5 assists.
Hill, who had seven of his 10 points in the second half, came into the game weak from a virus he has been trying to shake off.
He made three strong post moves late in the game after suffering through three turnovers early while trying to do so.
"We needed to get him going," Heath said. "Darian wanted to go back in, but I explain to him what we were trying to do in getting Steven going and he was good with it."
Soon after Arkansas emptied the bench completely, including the first playing time this season for walk ons Andrew Boyd and Collin Hardaway.
Arkansas shot 45.3 percent from the field, 68.8 percent from the free throw line, dished out 19 assists and had the 12 turnovers while forcing 20.
The Chippewas shot just 34 percent from the field, but did become the first team to outrebound the Razorbacks this season with a 36-35 margin.
The Razorbacks will now take off for the tests and then return to the court on Thursday, Dec. 14th when they host Oakland.
Charles Thomas looks to get free in the Razorbacks' 75-59 win over the Chippewas.
The UA Twirling Team put on a halftime show that brought the crowd to its feet in appreciation.
Arkansas 75, CMU 59
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