Beverley's Shooting Fuels Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE -- His first handshake with Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, right before Arkansas' 83-66 victory Saturday, was customary.

Patrick Beverley always greets opposing coaches.

Home or away, the Arkansas freshman always marches up to the bench opposite his own, looks the coach in the eye and tightly grips his hand. Beverley's embraces with the enemy usually end there.

But not Saturday, before 17,781 fans in Bud Walton Arena. As Beverley walked off the court, with one minute, 25 seconds left in Saturday's blowout, the 6-foot-1 guard again shook Kennedy's hand.

A few minutes later, the teams met near midcourt. Again, Beverley stretched his hand out.

"I think he wants me to vote for him for freshman of the year," Kennedy said, letting out the only chuckle of his postgame news conference. "I told him after the third (handshake), he's got my vote."

Beverley played Saturday like he deserved to top Kennedy's ballot.

In leading Arkansas to a crucial victory, which kept the Hogs one game back in the Southeastern Conference Western Division, Beverley did quite a bit of everything.

He scored a game-high 24 points, the third-highest total in his brief career. He nailed seven of his 13 shots, including six 3-pointers. He snagged five rebounds. He dished out five assists. He recorded four steals.

Most importantly, he fueled Arkansas' most fluid offensive periods -- at the beginning of each half.

"He was on fire," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "I thought his teammates did a great job of finding him and getting him open with screening. He cut really hard."

Beverley nailed his first two 3-point attempts. His consecutive swishes gave Arkansas an 11-5 lead less than three minutes into the contest. He drilled another 3-pointer at the 13:19 mark of the first half but went cold until halftime.

Upon beginning the second half, though, Beverley remembered his coach's plea.

Heath begged Beverley the past few days to take more shots. In the Hogs' blowout loss Wednesday night at Mississippi State, Beverley launched just six shots.

To Heath, that number was unacceptable.

"Coach Heath told me that we can't win with me taking just six shots," Beverley said. "I kept that in mind, but I also tried to take positive shots. I tried not to rush shots."

He didn't hurry his second-half flings. But he didn't need to. Arkansas' screens and Beverley's quickness took care of Ole Miss' defenders.

Beverley converted his first two 3-point attempts in the second half, quickly propelling Arkansas to a 45-38 lead and sparking a 15-2 half-opening spurt.

"That's the confidence of the shooter," Beverley said. "As a good shooter, you just got to keep shooting."

Shooters also have to keep moving without the ball, and Beverley excelled at that phase of his game Saturday. Beverley said he was admittedly raw at freeing himself for shots when he arrived in Fayetteville.

At Marshall High in Chicago, Beverley never had to work off screens. He never had to shed chasing defenders. He always had the ball in his hands.

"We ran isolation -- with just me with the ball -- most of the time," Beverley said. "I had to learn a lot when I got here."

He credited Arkansas assistant coaches Dan Hipsher and Oronde Taliaferro with teaching him the art of getting open. And now that he has nearly mastered that skill, Beverley's teammates benefit.

Beverley found Sonny Weems open for three second-half baskets.

"Patrick gets a lot of attention, and when teams help out on him, we get open," Weems said.

Kennedy doesn't expect that focus from opponents to waver.

No matter how many handshakes Beverley delivers to their coaches.

"I think he's tremendous," Kennedy said. "Without question, (he's) the best freshman in this league. He's a freshman all-American. He's got the whole package. He's a tough kid, and he's got that swagger, which you want kids to play with."

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