It must have been some kind of huddle when the University of Arkansas found itself down eight points to Vanderbilt Friday afternoon with just over six minutes left to go in an SEC Tournament quarterfinal.
Normally quiet Razorback junior Sonny Weems felt it was time to let it fly vocally.
"Throughout the year I haven't been that vocal, but I wanted this win very badly," Weems said. "It was time for me to step up and be vocal. I had plenty to say. I didn't want it to go down like this."
Weems' impassioned plea to his teammates along with some words and play from precocious true freshmen Patrick Beverley and Stefan Welsh sparked a rally that saw Arkansas rally past Vanderbilt 72-71 before 17,068 fans at the Georgia Dome.
"You know Sonny's been coming out of a little bit of his shell," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "I think as a newcomer, sometimes you are feeling your way around, do I say anything, do I step on anybody's toes? And he was very reluctant until about a week and a half ago – maybe right after the Tennessee game. He decided in practice to talk a little bit more, to be more of a leader."
The loquacious Beverley was glad to see Weems speak up.
"He was pretty amped up," Weems said. "I loved it, just loved it. That got the rest of us going and we weren't going to be denied."
Weems was quick to laud Beverley as well and said he was just as good in the clutch as Texas superstar Kevin Durant.
"He is a great player, a great freshman," Weems said. "I think he is up there with Kevin Durant, but he probably doesn't get as much touches as Durant. He is a great player who makes great plays. He's hungry. When he was in high school he didn't get recruited by a lot of people and he took that to heart and he is trying to show people up."
Beverley in turn was quick to praise Welsh, who came in when his team was down 60-52 and sparked them with a bucket and some defensive plays.
"We didn't have anything going and we turned and looked at each other and we all just had blank faces," Beverley said. "But he came off the bench and gave us a spurt defensively, giving great passes and getting into lane and scoring and taking charges. He just boosted our energy."
O o o
Arkansas leaped to No. 38 in the RealtimeRPI.com rankings and put itself into a semifinal game with Mississippi State that could be two teams playing for one NCAA Tournament spot.
" The ultimate goal is the NCAA Tournament," Razorback junior center Steven Hill said. "We realize we have to take it a game at a time. We knew that back before (Thursday night's win over) South Carolina and that's how we are going to get going after it. We have a game, we have to win that game. Nothing more, nothing less."
Heath was lobbying for six teams from the SEC to get into the Big Dance after the game instead of the four that had been projected by most Bracketologists going into this weekend.
"It would be a travesty if six and maybe even more don't get a shot to go to the NCAA Tournament just because we beat each other up," Heath said. "That doesn't necessarily happen in some other conferences like it does to us.
"I know all leagues are good, but I just can't believe there is another league from top to bottom – from 1 through 12 – that has the quality of teams that we have," Heath added.
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