Razorbacks Pick Up Pace In Victory

FAYETTEVILLE -- This was the Arkansas that Gary Ervin grew up knowing. This was the Arkansas that Sonny Weems watched from afar as a kid in West Memphis. This was the Arkansas that John Pelphrey appreciated as a conference competitor during his playing days at Kentucky.

Full-court pressure, up-tempo offense, bodies on the floor, delirious fans. That's what the Arkansas Razorbacks remember about their school's basketball past. And that's how they produced a 94-91 victory Wednesday night over Missouri, scoring the most points since Arkansas' 2005-06 season opener.

They ruined the return of Missouri coach Mike Anderson, a 17-year assistant in Fayetteville under Nolan Richardson, by merely beating his Tigers at their own game.

"This is what Arkansas basketball is all about," Ervin said. "Just pressing for 40 minutes, getting out in transition, making plays, getting the crowd into it.

"It was just exciting."

The 18,621 fans in Bud Walton Arena surely agreed.

The evening began with Anderson receiving a prolonged standing ovation from the Razorback faithful. A few minutes later, they exploded with equal praise for Pelphrey, the man who has promised a return to the same style of basketball Anderson and Richardson coached.

Once the game began, the similarities between the teams -- and their styles -- were immediately apparent. Both teams pressed, both teams attacked pressure almost identically and neither team could pull away.

The first half produced nine ties, 11 lead changes and 101 total points. Arkansas led 51-50 at the break, to the delight of the Razorbacks, their fans and their coach.

"I loved the pace," Pelphrey said. "Guys were flying around. I loved it, except for the turnovers."

Self-inflicted miscues again hampered Arkansas early. The Hogs committed 10 turnovers in the first 7 minutes, 49 seconds. But they turned the ball over just two times the rest of the half and finished with 23.

Meanwhile, Arkansas forced Missouri (5-2) into 12 often-costly turnovers in the second half. The Tigers' leading scorer, Stefhon Hannah, scored just nine of his game-high 28 points after halftime and committed four second-half turnovers.

The game quickly turned into a track meet of sorts, with speed and leaping ability mattering far more than basketball fundamentals.

"It was tremendous fun," said Weems, one of four Razorbacks to score in double figures. "When teams press like that, it's just athletes against athletes. We have the athletes, and they have the athletes.

"It just mattered at the end of the game, 'Who wants it more?'"

Arkansas evidently did.

"I thought they made a couple more plays down the stretch," Anderson said.

There was the 3-pointer by Patrick Beverley, which put Arkansas up 90-88 with 1:45 to go. There were the four consecutive free throws converted by Weems and Charles Thomas in the final 26 seconds. And there was the stingy defense played by Thomas on Missouri's desperation shot attempt at the buzzer from Darryl Butterfield.

But other moments throughout Wednesday's game stuck out in Pelphrey's mind. Charges taken by Thomas. Offensive rebounds grabbed by Darian Townes. Steals snatched by Arkansas' guards.

All were hustle plays, all were products of Pelphrey's -- and Anderson's -- philosophy. All helped Arkansas prevail through 12 ties and 21 lead changes. All defined what Arkansas was and strives to be again.

"This is how I want every game to be," Weems said.

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