The University of Arkansas finished its pre-conference slate with a victory on Tuesday night, but it's not a tape that's likely to scare No. 8 Alabama – who is the next foe due into Bud Walton Arena – too much.
Sonny Weems and Gary Ervin each had 14 points – with Weems scoring all of his points in the second half and Ervin adding six assists while having no turnover - as Arkansas eventually put away Tulsa 68-59 before a crowd of 12,827 at Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas (11-3) led by just one point twice in the second half before eventually blowing that lead out to 17 with just over four minutes left in the contest.
"Well there is no such thing as a bad win," Razorback head coach Stan Heath said. "I can tell you that. Give Tulsa a lot of credit. They ought us hard and worked their tails off on the glass. That was an area that I was disappointed in our team that we didn't battle better on the glass.
But sometimes you win a little bit ugly," Heath continued. "You have to scrap, you have to claw and you have to score from your defense and you have to find different ways to win."
Charles Thomas added 13 points and 6 rebounds, Patrick Beverley 11 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists and Steven Hill 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals and Vincent Hunter 8 points and two blocks in the third straight win for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas led 68-51 at the four-minute and didn't score the rest of the way.
"The guys in the locker room know we have to play better as we gear up for SEC play," Heath said. "We have got to play at another level. We have got to shore up some of those defensive holes we had with penetration and we have got to cover down a lot better and offensively we have got make sure we get more movement, more movement, more movement and not just make a couple of passes and stand on the block. That is not going to work for us."
Mark Hill had 17 points to lead Tulsa (9-3), who had won six of its last seven games and was off to the school's best start since the 2000-2001 season.
Tulsa head coach Doug Wojcik, whose team missed its first 11 shots and made six turnovers while going scoreless the first 7:48 of the game, was proud of the way his squad fought back.
"It was a hard-fought game and I thought both teams played really hard," Wojcik said. "Arkansas shot it well the second half, real well. Sonny Weems shot it great. But I am real proud of my team. Our numbers are pretty impressive in the sense that you outgoal them, hit the same amount of threes, you outrebound them by 10, but you loss the game at the line and you lose the game with turnovers."
Arkansas was 17-of-21 from the free throw line and Tulsa, who had 14 of its 21 turnovers in the first half, was 6-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Weems, who had six of his team's 16 turnovers, was scoreless at halftime, but hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts – the only kind of shots he took in the second half.
"I wish I had the answer to that," Heath said of Weems' differing halves. "I challenged him at halftime and I thought he responded a lot better. He wasn't there, he didn't play the way Sonny can play and he had way too many turnovers for me, for him, for everybody. But he made some huge shots in the second half and his energy level picked up in the second half."
Hill played 33 minutes as the Razorbacks played the entire second half without 6-10 junior forward Darian Townes, who was sent to the locker room when he exploded verbally after being taken out after playing three minutes before intermission.
"Townes got a little frustrated and I told him, 'hey, just go in the locker room,'" Heath said afterwards. "We will talk to him later tonight."
Heath said Townes waited in the locker room and addressed if he was off the team.
" He is not off the team," Heath said. " I will talk to him later tonight. He was frustrated and Darian, sometimes that is just D. He is an emotional guy. He was not playing well. I think he was disappointed about that and I was disappointed about that. I let him know just how much I was disappointed."
The Razorbacks shot 50 percent in the second half – 40 percent from the game - and were outrebounded 39-29.
Tulsa missed its first 11 field goal attempts and had six turnovers before denting the scoreboard, but only trailed 7-0 despite not scoring for nearly the first eight minutes of the game.
When Beverley drilled a 3-pointer with 8:02 left in the first half, Arkansas had pushed its lead to 18-6, but allowed Tulsa back into the game with shooting woes and turnovers of its own.
An 11-2 run by the Golden Hurricane capped by Mark Hill's lay-up got the visitors within 20-17 with 3:52 remaining in the half.
Hunter's free throw with 41 seconds showing capped the scoring in the first half and the Razorbacks to the break with a 29-24 advantage.
"We could have played much better in the first half," Steven Hill said. "We knew we needed to pick up the intensity. We just had a lull and it was hard to get rid of it. We played hard in the second half, but we know we have got to play hard the whole 40 minutes."
Ervin was more to the point.
"We came out really flat in the first half," Ervin said. "We just played lazy."
Tulsa scored the first four points of the second half and twice got within one point – the second time when Jamel McLean scored inside to cut it to 32-31.
"We played hard and fought our way through the game," Mark Hill said. "…We guard well tonight and played good defense."
The Golden Hurricane actually had the ball and a chance for the lead, but Weems knocked away an attempted alley-oop and Ervin had back-to-back lay-ups to push Arkansas ahead 37-32.
"I think Gary Ervin played one of his best games tonight," Heath said.
Tulsa made another run, closing to within 42-40 on Mark Hill's 3-pointer, but Hunter, Ervin and Beverley all scored inside to surge Arkansas ahead 48-40 with 11:07 left in the game.
The Razorbacks eventually put the game away with a 9-2 blitz in less than a minute, a spree capped by Ervin's lay-up that surged his team ahead 68-51 and forced a Tulsa timeout with 4:01 remaining.
"We played more like a team in the second half," Weems said. "We know we can't do it by ourselves."
Arkansas hosts Alabama at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in a game that will be televised by Lincoln Financial.
"Everything now jumps up another level," Heath said. "The intensity level jumps, the talent level out the floor of your opponent - it goes to another level. Our first two games – I don't know who is doing it, but they are obviously not my best friend.
"Alabama is awfully, awfully talented and between them and Florida those are the two favorites with the talent and the returning guys they have," Heath added. "Home court is huge for us. Our fans were big for us today. I thought they got into the game and helped push us along when we were sputtering a little bit. We need that. We need a big crowd and we did a lot of energy in the building.
"It is going to take a great performance from us, but I think we have that inside of us."
Arkansas 68, Tulsa 59
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