A Great Evening — All Around

FAYETTEVILLE — Hardly option No. 1, Darian Townes fielded a pass from Sonny Weems and tried to beat the first-half buzzer by firing up a 3-pointer.

Never mind that the 6-foot-10 center had only hoisted one shot from beyond the arc in his entire Arkansas career. For sure, Vincent Hunter didn't. Heck, even the 9,271 fans inside Bud Walton Arena couldn't have cared less about seeing Townes' infrequent attempt.

Arkansas already had picked the Oakland (Mich.) defense apart Tuesday night for everyone's liking. But Hunter was still confident — even in a post player who rarely shoots beyond 15 feet.

"I knew Darian was going to make it," Hunter said. "He always throws those up in practice and makes them."

Hunter was right to predict an unlikely make. Townes did drain the 20-foot jumper. It was just that kind of night for the Razorbacks.

In its first game since Dec. 5, Arkansas may have produced its finest all-around effort in a 91-57 victory.

The Razorbacks offense clicked. Their defense hounded. And their brains functioned well for the majority of a perfect tune-up for Saturday's 1:05 p.m. contest against Texas Tech in North Little Rock.

"We played smart and didn't make a lot of stupid mistakes," point guard Gary Ervin said.

Silly errors hampered Arkansas in a road loss at Missouri. But in the three games since, Arkansas has steadily progressed.

The Hogs' offensive proficiency, in particular, stood out as they improved to 8-1.

In the opening 20 minutes against the Golden Grizzlies, the Hogs could do little wrong with the ball in their hands.

Collectively, they drilled 16 of their 29 field-goal attempts (55.2 percent). They nailed 6 of 9 shots from 3-point range. They converted all six of their free-throw tries.

They did commit 10 turnovers, resorting at times to some familiar sloppiness, but they offset the miscues with 12 assists.

"The time off for finals gave us a thirst to play, and I think we were all ready," Patrick Beverley said.

Individually, the Razorbacks took turns flashing their offensive abilities in the first half. Oakland (6-6) couldn't key on any one Razorback in the first half. The Golden Grizzlies had to worry about all of them.

Beverley, an emerging candidate for Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, posted 13 of his game-high 19 points by drilling 5 of 6 shots, including three 3-pointers.

Ervin ran the offense with ease, dishing out five of his season-high eight assists and scoring seven points. Steven Hill used his 7-foot frame to athletically score twice — a fading 8-footer and a dunk after making two pivot moves.

Stefan Welsh came to a sudden halt and swished a 3-pointer. Hunter knocked down a 21-footer, the first of three 3-pointers. Townes showed off an unguardable hook shot, and Weems scored on an athletic drive to the basket.

"This is what we thought we'd look like," Beverley said. "You can't stop us when we're all going like that."

They were all going on the defensive end, as well.

Constant pressure from Stan Heath's bunch reappeared Tuesday. The Razorbacks forced Oakland into 27 turnovers, the most committed by an Arkansas opponent this season or last, and swiped a season-high total in steals.

"Eighteen steals. I've never heard of that many," Oakland coach Greg Kampe said.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath said Tuesday's performance could be used as a barometer to measure future effort.

"If I could, I would bottle it up and carry it with me from game to game," he said. "We really shot the ball well, and we need to take it with us when we travel away."

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