Arkansas 70, VCU 60

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The gymnasium, an open-air facility at a local Puerto Rican school, felt like a sauna, like a place Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley never thought he'd visit.

Before coming to San Juan, Beverley thought he'd be lounging Saturday. He thought he'd be swimming. At the very least, he thought he'd be somewhere with no basketballs around.

But there he was Saturday — practicing twice on the orders of first-year coach John Pelphrey — running, sweating, even bear-crawling in the humidity. Moments after No. 18 Arkansas finished off a 70-60 victory Sunday over Virginia Commonwealth, the hellish Saturday seemed worth the pain.

"I feel that the off-day kind of (proved) to the team that after a bad loss, where you have 32 turnovers, there's going to be severe punishment," Beverley said. "We had to tune up things. We had to face consequences."

The Razorbacks did just that, enduring three spirited practices and a lengthy film session in between games Friday and Sunday at the Coliseo de Puerto Rico. And they seemed to respond the way their coach hoped as they discarded the Rams and Pelphrey's former coaching colleague, VCU coach Anthony Grant.

Arkansas cut down on its turnovers, committing just 17 after turning the ball over 58 times in its first two Tip-Off contests.

The Hogs (3-1) burst out to a 24-9 lead. They showed a consistent desire to play high-intensity defense. They stymied VCU point guard Eric Maynor, limiting him to 12 points. And they didn't falter when adversity struck late in the game, when the Rams (2-2) whittled their lead down to six with four minutes remaining.

Pelphrey considered the decreased number of turnovers the most important element of Arkansas' win.

"Against Providence it looked like we had no idea what we were doing," Pelphrey said. "It was so shocking to me that I had no response. I thought those guys did much better (Sunday) taking on double-teams, pivoting through them, finding open guys and flashing to the middle of the floor."

Arkansas' players pointed out that the turnaround was no accident, that their lower number of miscues was a product of the brutal Saturday experience. Sure, they were upset with Saturday's events. They had hoped to enjoy some part of their Puerto Rico trip. They wanted to spend time with their families who traveled to the Caribbean.

But they understood Pelphrey's decision, even as he ordered them to bear-crawl up and down the court after each turnover during Saturday's practices. Pelphrey had one message for them throughout: "It's not physical. You're fine physically. It's between your ears."

Pelphrey did work with them on one physical aspect in particular, though. He told his players they weren't "facing up" and weren't attacking correctly with the ball. They were reckless, he said. He thought they looked far more under control Sunday when faced with constant pressure from the Rams' full-court press.

Arkansas' guards calmly maneuvered through the backcourt, and Arkansas' forwards intelligently handled harrassment when they were thrown the ball. They looked like a new squad, like a collection of players incapable of tying the school record for turnovers.

But Pelphrey knows his Razorbacks are fragile. He knows they could resort back to turnover-happy ways. Obviously, he's seen it before, and it happened quite a bit before he even arrived in Fayetteville. He didn't want to entertain that possibility, however.

Pelphrey interrupted a reporter who asked Beverley and Sonny Weems if Friday's defeat to Providence "had been embarrassing."

"We put it in the past," Pelphrey said. "We're moving on. It's been flushed. We're going to move on."

If they prove that they haven't, the Razorbacks now know what to expect.

Why The Razorbacks Won

Arkansas cut down on its turnovers, committing 17, jumped out to a 24-9 lead and placed four scorers in double figures — led by Sonny Weems' 16 points.

Why The Rams Lost

Virginia Commonwealth shot 33.3 percent from the field (17 of 51), grabbed 13 less rebounds than Arkansas and got only 12 points from leading scorer Eric Maynor.

That Figures

1 First-half assists by Virginia Commonwealth

4 Alley-oop dunks by Arkansas

32 Razorback bench points, led by Gary Ervin's 12

37 Season-high minutes played by Weems

Patrick Beverley drives to the goal as VCU's Jamal Shuler defends.

Darian Townes goes in for a dunk.

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