Sonny Weems helped Arkansas turn up the heat in the fullcourt press in the second half in an 89-67 victory over Delaware State before 11,094 Saturday at Bud Walton Arena.
Weems had a career high five steals -- all in the second half -- as the Hogs pulled away with a 14-0 run that included five straight possessions in which Delaware State could not make it to halfcourt.
Darian Townes scored 18 points in just 17 minutes to lead the Arkansas offense. Charles Thomas added 15 points. Stefan Welsh was the only other Razorback in double figures with 12. Welsh also had a career-high seven assists without a turnover.
The Hogs have been plagued by turnovers, but had only 10 against Delaware State. Six of those were by Charles Thomas, all in the first half.
Arkansas (4-1) had trouble with Delaware State star forward Roy Bright throughout the game. The 6-6 senior scored 27 points, including 5 of 10 on 3-point shots, often taking the Hogs' big men far from the basket for open looks.
Bright's 3-point shot over 7-0 Stephen Hill gave Delware a 25-22 lead with six minutes left in the first half, but it was all Arkansas the rest of the way. Welsh nailed three 3-point shots over the next three minutes to give the Hogs the lead for good. The Hogs landed a 7-0 spurt in the final 66 seconds for a 43-34 halftime lead.
Arkansas solved Delaware's matchup zone for a series of easy baskets to start the second half before the press caught fire five minutes after intermission. Welsh hit a trey to cap the 14-0 run for a 67-42 UA lead at the 13:19 mark.
Weems was involved in that Arkansas flurry with one basket, but his hands were everywhere in the man-to-man Arkansas press.
"I thought Sonny was phenomenal," said Arkansas coach John Pelphrey. "He was rotating for steals and flying around. The way he was playing is the way you draw it up.
"I've told our guys not to wave to the crowd. You don't do it that way. You play the right way, they will cheer you. Get them going with your play. I thought we did that in the second half with the way we were playing. It was pleasing.
"You don't have to be a game changer just with your offense. You can be a playmaker on defense, too. I thought Sonny was that tonight. I thought he was really good in the second half of the College of Charleston game and I thought he played like that again tonight."
Pelphrey was also pleased with the play of his point guards, Welsh and Gary Ervin. They combined for 13 assists without a turnover. He noted that Delaware State did not often come out of its matchup zone, but it was still an improvement.
"We've had turnovers when teams have not extended the defense before against us so it's better any way you look at it," Pelphrey said. "I know there are going to be times when teams attack us physically and try to instill their will upon us. That's not what was happening today, but we did better. I liked that stat, 13 assists and no turnovers.
"I thought our guards did a good job of covering the first four or five feet of the press, trapping and getting their arms up. And, then you had Sonny flying around in the back disrupting things."
Weems said he's tried to make defense a big part of his game, at the request of his coaches.
"They tell me I should be a great defensive player and I'm trying to do that," Weems said. "They tell me that I should get at least two steals a game. Five is pretty good. But this in the distant past now. I've got to look to the next game. What happens next is more important than this game."
That would be Wednesday night when Missouri comes to Fayetteville. Perhaps that is what
Pelphrey was talking about when he mentioned teams that try to instill their will on their opponent. That's what they will see from Missouri's defense.
Charles Thomas sets up on defense against Delaware State. Photo by Sarah Berrett.
Arkansas Thumps Delaware State, 89-67
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