Razorback Bench Lifts Hogs Again

FAYETTEVILLE — They could've complained. They could've whined. They could've moped. Once starters for Arkansas, seniors Gary Ervin and Darian Townes could've sided with themselves instead of the team.

But they haven't. Just as Arkansas' 70-51 victory over Missouri State began Monday night, Ervin and Townes took their seats to the left of the Razorback coaching staff and joked with one another.

"I asked Darian, ‘Who's a good big man who comes off the bench this year in the NBA?'" Ervin said. "And he called me Gary Ginobili (after San Antonio Spurs sixth man Manu Ginobili). We just kind of clown about it in a positive way. We're veterans. We've both started in the SEC.

"So it's something that we basically see it as having (eight) starters with the three of us coming off the bench."

Sophomore forward Michael Washington is the other contributor of the bench trio that has fueled Arkansas to two home victories in three days. They combined to score 37 points in Saturday's come-from-behind win over Oral Roberts.

And they tallied 36 as the Razorbacks shook off another slow start Monday before 11,956 fans.

Missouri State (4-2) burst out to a 10-4 lead. The Bears connected on five of their first six shots. The Razorbacks committed turnovers on five of their first seven possessions. And Arkansas coach John Pelphrey was again needing a boost from his non-starters.

"I wish I had an answer for (the slow starts)," Pelphrey said. "I don't. It's something that's very frustrating."

The Razorbacks (7-1) are overcoming the sluggish opening stretches recently because of bench players such as Ervin, Townes and Washington. Ervin scored 10 of his team-high tying 12 points in the first half. Townes tallied seven of his eight points before halftime.

And Washington hustled all over the court throughout his 21 minutes. The 6-foot-10 sophomore registered his first career double-double, scoring 12 points, snaring 12 rebounds and also blocking five shots.

Ervin had a new nickname ready for Washington when he walked into the postgame interview room, simply doubling the usual moniker the Hogs have for the McGehee native. "What up, ‘Dub Dub!'" Ervin yelled.

He then told reporters, "He can do that every game."

As for Arkansas' defensive intensity, Pelphrey hopes his Razorbacks can bring the kind they exhibited Monday to every game. They limited the Bears to 20 second-half points, holding them to a field-goal percentage of 21.9 after halftime, and they accomplished their primary defensive goal.

They introduced fatigue into the game with their hounding pressure.

That defense fueled a 13-2 spurt in each half — the first gave the Hogs a 28-23 lead and the second put Arkansas up 57-42. Arkansas' consistent effort to speed up the game tired the Bears and resulted in a season-high tying 23 Missouri State turnovers.

"I'm really disappointed," Missouri State coach Barry Hinson said. "That's the worst effort we've had (this season). I'm embarrassed and I told our guys that. That's not Bears basketball and I told our guys that."

Contrarily, Pelphrey said, "This is the best we've played."

His increasingly reliable bench deserves a substantial amount of the credit.

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