Weems Shines In Losing Effort

FAYETTEVILLE -- Sonny Weems walked slowly to take his place outside the lane. Bent over at the waist, sweat dripped off his glistening face as he looked down at the floor.

Grabbing at his shorts, Weems looked exhausted.

With his team trailing by 10 points with under a minute remaining, the junior transfer from Arkansas-Fort Smith knew the Razorbacks' already slim chances of returning to the NCAA tournament, barring an improbable run to the Southeastern Conference Tournament title in two weeks, were over.

Weems played 36 minutes on Saturday and had a bounce back game following a dismal showing (4 points in 34 minutes) in a loss to Auburn on Wednesday. His 18-point, seven rebound performance was one of the few bright spots in Arkansas' 83-72 loss to Tennessee on Saturday in Bud Walton Arena.

But the 6-foot-6 Weems deflected any praise aimed his way.

"I just tried to help my team," Weems said. "Patrick (Beverley) wasn't really having a good night, so we needed somebody to step up and I did. But we still came up with a loss, so it doesn't matter."

Over the last five games, Weems has struggled to find his rhythm on offense, scoring just 18 combined points in losses to LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn. Weems scored 19 in the win over Ole Miss a week ago, Arkansas' only victory in the past five games. When he scored 10 first-half points on Saturday to help Arkansas to a 36-33 halftime lead, it appeared Weems' breakout game might be the turning point.

But in the second half, Tennessee's swarming full-court press forced 17 turnovers (24 for the game), which proved to be the difference.

"We panicked when they pressed us in the second half," Weems said. "In the first half they pressed us and it came easy for us, but in the second half we just froze up a little bit."

Arkansas had chances late, pulling within 73-70 with 2 minutes, 26 seconds left on a Darian Townes putback. But Tennessee closed with a 10-2 run to put the Razorbacks' postseason hopes in miracle status.

"We had it toward the end," Weems said. "We just made some costly mistakes."

Late in the game, when Arkansas had tried seemingly every uniformed player on guarding Tennessee's terrific guard Chris Lofton, finally Weems got his chance and held one of the most prolific scorers in the SEC basically in check down the stretch. Lofton's only points against Weems came on an inbound play, but he finished with 31 points.

"He had 31 points, so no one did a very good job on him," Weems said. "It's real tough to guard him. It's really hard to guard a little fast guard like he is."

Arkansas tried Sean McCurdy, Gary Ervin, Patrick Beverley, Stefan Welsh and even during one stretch saw Charles Thomas matched up with Lofton. But only Weems was able to hold his own.

"Sonny is long, so I think that had a lot to do with it," Ervin said. "He played him (Lofton) tough."


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