Weems Sheds His Mask, Plays Tougher

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Something was noticeably different about Sonny Weems when he took the floor Saturday:

He didn't look like the Phantom of the Opera.

After playing four games with a protective mask covering his cracked nose, Weems decided it was time to shed the clear face guard. The forward played -- and looked -- just fine.

Criticized earlier this week for a lack of focus, Weems scored 16 points, grabbed nine rebounds and showed an intensity Saturday that helped propel Arkansas to a 63-57 upset of No. 12 Alabama in Coleman Coliseum.

"I got to do whatever it takes to help my team win," Weems said. "That's what I am, I'm a person that's going to sacrifice for the team."

Weems had been playing with the protective mask since he got elbowed in the nose by Florida's Corey Brewer on Jan. 9. But Weems admits the face guard blocks out some of his vision, making it tough for him on defense to see the player he's guarding and the basketball.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath wasn't a fan of the mask, either. He criticized Weems' effort in Wednesday's 66-60 loss at South Carolina, benching the forward for the start of the second half after he committed four turnovers before halftime.

But Weems played more under control against the Crimson Tide, scoring 10 points in the first half on 4-of-6 shooting to help the Razorbacks take a 31-18 lead into the locker room.

"Sonny actually played his first game without the mask on, and I thought that helped him," Heath said. "He felt more confident and comfortable playing that way."

Weems got off to a fast start, scoring four of Arkansas' first eight points. He found his jump shot early on, attacked the basket and appeared to be more aggressive despite not wearing the protective mask.

Maybe it had something to do with the way Heath criticized the junior-college transfer following Wednesday's loss at South Carolina.

"Sonny is a really, really competitive guy, and whenever he gets called out, he definitely wants to go and prove people wrong," Arkansas center Steven Hill said. "Just his competitive fire and the way he works, he really came out and showed that with the way he played today."

Weems made 7-of-14 shots, but he still had five turnovers. At one point in the first half, the forward said he even considered putting the face guard back on after getting hit on his still-injured nose.

"It kind of hurt a little bit; I wanted to put (the mask) back on," Weems said. "But I've got to get used to playing without it.

"... It feels good playing without it."

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