Arkansas 88, No. 8 Bama 61

Patrick Beverley, Sonny Weems and Gary Ervin each have 18 points while Ervin adds 11 assists and just one turnover and Charles Thomas 12 points and 11 rebounds as Arkansas rips No. 8 Alabama 88-61 before a season-high crowd of 17,935 fans Saturday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena

Earlier this week University of Arkansas freshman Patrick Beverley said his team was planning on making a statement for the college basketball world to hear against Alabama on Saturday afternoon.

It came through loud and clear.

Beverley and fellow newcomers Sonny Weems and Gary Ervin all added 18 points and Ervin had 11 assists as well as the unranked Razorbacks scored the first 14 points of the game and ultimately destroyed No. 8 Alabama 88-61 in both team's SEC opener before a season-high crowd of 17,935 at Bud Walton Arena.

"I am really proud of the guys in that locker room," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "They came out ready to play, they were intense and the defense was outstanding. We got the game game going up and down the court which was good for us and we fed off of our defense and got some easy baskets."

Charles Thomas added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Darian Townes 8 points each as the Razorbacks (12-3, 1-0) won their fourth straight game and led by 36 at one point while ending a six-game winning streak for the Crimson Tide (13-2, 0-1).

"We were not ready to take somebody's best shot," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. "Arkansas was terrific today. You have to give them credit because they were phenomenal. We were not nearly as prepared for that as we should have been and that's my responsibililty. They had a high level of intensity and we didn't."

Arkansas had 25 assists to just 7 turnovers on the day with Ervin having 11 assists and just one turnover and Beveley had Thomas also chipping in four assists each.

Ervin, 7 of 8 from the field and 2 of 3 from 3-point range, also added six rebounds in his best effort of the season.

"I have got to give Gary a lot of credit because I have been on his butt pretty hard and he responded really well today," Heath said. "He was big-time. I thought it started with him and Patrick getting it going and Sonny got it going and Charles Thomas was a workhorse again."

Ervin, who struggled with turnovers early on in the season, had has just 4 turnovers in 121 minutes of playing time in the last four games.

"It's a new year and I promised myself I would go back to the things I know that I can do," Ervin said.

Weems said his team got even more incentive when ESPN's three experts picked Alabama to win handily on their college basketball preview show on Saturday morning.

"It's a big statement," Weems said of the win. "Beating Alabama like this sends a message that Arkansas is for real."

Alabam was coming in off a 70-55 win over Oklahoma.

Steven Hill and Townes had 4 blocks each on a day when the Razorbacks swatted away 10 overall and outscored Alabama inside 44-20 during the contest as Crimson Tide stars Jarmareo Davidson, Ronald Hendrix and Ronald Steele were all held out of double figures.

"Words can't describe how we played today," Beverley said. "We were out to show we were an elite team...This was a statement game for us."

Arkansas shot 51.5 percent from the field and had just 7 turnovers while forcing Alabama into a 35.5 percent from the field and 15 turnovers.

Hill set the defensive tone of the ballgame with three of his four first-half blocks coming in the first few minutes and coming against Hendrix and Davidson.

Those blocks started fast breaks that Arkansas capitalized on to jump out ahead 7-0 and had doubled that to 14-0 when Ervin's 3-pointer found nothing but net at the 15:06 mark.

"The first eight minutes and the last two minutes of the first half, we were pathetic," Gottfried said. "We have got to get better. You have to realize that every game counts as only one game. We could have lost 75-73 and still got on that plane 0-1."

Although Davidson finally scored to break the ice for the Crimson Tide with 14:17 left, Beverley and Hunter both drilled consecutive 3 pointers and Beverley added a free throw that had the Razorbacks out front 21-2 with 12:35 left before intermission.

Alabama could get no closer than 15 in the first half after that with Arkansas twice taking leads of 21 (34-13 and 40-19) before extending it to 44-19 after two straight steals by Beverly that resulted in his dunk and Ervin's lay-up at the with 1:07 left in the half.

Demetirus Jemison's free throw with 25 seconds before the break capped the first half scoring and left it 44-20 at the break.

The Crimson Tide tried to make a game of it after intermission by scoring the first seven points of the half, but 16 was as close as they would get the rest of the way.

"We got a lot of momentum in the beginning of the game and just kept it going." Heath said. "We got off track at the beginning of the second half, but came back after we let our guard down. Our guys just tuned it in today. They made it happen. Our defense was outstanding."

Arkansas had blown it back out to 70-39 by the time Townes scored inside with 11:44 left and crested at 86-50 when Ervin's fast-break lay-up with 3:39 left finished the night for the starters.

"I credit this performance to everyone," Ervin said. "We did a good job of carrying practice to the game. (This win) sends a message that we can be a good team because a lot of people might not know that."

Alonzo Gee led Alabama with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Pine Bluff native Mykal Riley added 11 for the Crimson Tide.

Steele had just 8 points, Hendrix 7 points and 3 rebounds while fouling out and Davidson 5 points and 6 rebounds.

"I want to give credit to my assistant coaches," Heath said. "They did a great job of preparing our team for this game."

Arkansas returns to action Tuesday night at Florida while Alabama hosts LSU.

"I'm excited about how we played, but it is a long SEC season in front of us to enjoy this tonight, but to get ourselves ready. We didn't get a big favor with our schedule with Florida the next team on our list.

"...We have got to build off what we did today," Heath added, " but at the same time we have got to understand it is going to take that same sort of effort every time we step on the court."

Razorback point guard Gary Ervin drives around Alabama's Brandon Hollinger during Arkansas' 88-61 win Saturday at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas junior center Steven Hill makes a move against Alabama's Jermareo Davidson.

All photos by Marc F. Henning of The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.

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