Arkansas Cuts Down Delaware State

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Razorbacks still remain a work in progress under new coach John Pelphrey, but provided a snapshot of their mission in the second half of Saturday's 89-67 win against Delaware State on Saturday.

Arkansas pinned a ball-handler in the corner with a vicious trap.

It tipped inbounds pass at the baseline, picked it up and scored on a layup. It stepped in front of an ill-timed lob and turned it into an easy jump shot. It forced a 10-second violation.

The Hogs (4-1) forced the Hornets (2-3) to commit turnovers on five possessions thanks to the heat of their press during a one-minute stretch. Even more, Arkansas wouldn't let them cross half court on four of those trips. It suffocated Delaware State, while whipping the 11,094 in Bud Walton Arena into a frenzy.

"That's kind of the way you like to draw it up," Pelphrey said. "We were able to create a lot of disturbance there in the backcourt, rotate for steals, and the unselfishness, the sharing of the basketball, for dunks and wide open threes. It was a lot of fun."

It was part of a night in which the Razorbacks forced 21 turnovers. The pressure resulted in miscues by Delaware State. It was a nice change of pace for Arkansas, which was picked on by opposing defenses during the Puerto Rico Tip-off last week.

Senior Sonny Weems was the point man of the chaos with a career-high five steals Saturday. All of them came in the frenetic second half.

"He was a game-changer," Pelphrey said. "He was a playmaker on defense. I think a lot of times people get caught up in versatility and playmaking only on the offensive side of it. You can do it on defense.

"There was a stretch there, I don't know what the time frame was, but he was extremely disruptive."

Pelphrey was referring to the five-turnover burst that sealed the win for the Hogs.

Delaware State, which was led by forward Roy Bright's 28 points, made 9 of its first 11 shots and kept pace with Arkansas in the first half. But the Razorbacks put together the defining, 14-0 run with their best defensive stretch under Pelphrey. Even though Weems admitted he was "very tired" after pressing and trapping, the scoreboard proved it was worth the effort: The Razorbacks' lead ballooned to 67-42.

"It rattles them a little bit," said Weems, who also scored 8 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. "It kind of shows them that we're here to play and we're not taking it easy on anybody."

Said Delaware State coach Greg Jackson: "In the second half, (Arkansas) went to a different level that we couldn't match."

But the defensive intensity in the second half wasn't the only noticeable improvement Saturday.

Arkansas, which entered the game averaging 22 turnovers a night, committed a season-low 10. It came on the heels of the three-game stretch in Puerto Rico in which the Hogs committed 75. Point guards Stefan Welsh and Gary Ervin led the way with an impressive statline: 18 points, 13 assists, zero turnovers.

"If that can continue, that would be great," Pelphrey said. "I'm not thinking it's going to happen."

The Razorbacks also had more success behind the 3-point line, knocking down 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) attempts. They were shooting 26.7 percent (16 of 60) through four games. But Welsh led the way by making 4 of 7 against Delaware State.

Three of them came during an important stretch in the first half, when the Razorbacks were caught in a back-and-forth game. The sophomore made 3-pointers on consecutive trips to help the Hogs regain a 28-25 lead. Welsh made another to break a 29-29 tie a few minutes later and Arkansas never trailed again.

Center Darian Townes led the Razorbacks by scoring a game-high 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in just 17 minutes. Forward Charles Thomas finished with 15 points on 6 of 6 shooting. Welsh added 12.

But defense was all Welsh wanted to talk about after the game.

"We know we're going to have to come out and defend every night," Welsh said. "That's the style we play. We try to create as many turnovers as possible. Every time you turn it over, that's another possession we got and another possession they lose.

"We know the strengths of our basketball team. We're just eager to continue to work on it and we'll see what happens."

Hawgs Daily Top Stories