Razorbacks Continually Rally Back

DALLAS — A giant Razorback flag waving behind him, Arkansas senior Charles Thomas leapt up onto a bench chair and grasped his jersey with both hands. The Razorbacks' 85-78 victory Saturday night over Baylor just finished, Thomas wanted to make one final statement.

Arkansas' most impressive nonconference victory this season was about squashing the perception that the Hogs couldn't perform "in their red jerseys," as coach John Pelphrey called it. This win was about finally putting their six-senior experience to use. This win was about staring down adversity, facing numerous deficits and persevering through it all.

And Thomas decided only one action could accurately portray his emotions. So he tugged away at his uniform, an ear-to-ear grin plastered across his face.

"It was all about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back," Thomas said. "We were so excited about winning on the road. It's not our strong suit."

No, it's not. Not at all. This collection of Razorbacks has been downright pitiful away from Bud Walton Arena throughout their careers. They won just 2 of 10 last season on the road. But they began the process of forgetting the past with the hard-fought victory in front of a crowd of 10,056.

Now sure, this wasn't a true road victory. Just as many fans inside the American Airlines Center spent their Saturday evening yelling "Wooo, Pig Sooie!" as those who hollered "Sic 'Em, Bears."

However, Arkansas repeatedly responded in an environment that often felt NCAA Tournament-like.

"We finally did start playing the game the right way," Arkansas first-year coach John Pelphrey said.

An unexpected reversal in 3-point shooting was the most glaring reason why the Hogs prevailed. Arkansas entered the contest last in the Southeastern Conference in 3-point percentage. Baylor came in ranked in the top 15 nationally.

But the Bears converted just three of their 20 attempts from 3-point range.

"Their guards are the engine of their team," said Arkansas senior Sonny Weems, who led all scorers with 21 points. "Once you shut down their guards, you shut down their whole team. We just got down and guarded."

Meanwhile, the Hogs connected on 3-pointers with unprecedented accuracy, making 9-of-15, more than 50 percent of their tries for the first time all season.

"We were just confident," Weems said.

They were particularly certain of themselves down the stretch. After rallying from their fifth deficit, the Hogs sealed their first win of 2008 with six consecutive free throws in the final minute — four by Weems and two by Marcus Britt.

Throughout the second half, the Razorbacks handled the pressure of the moment with poise and composure. Baylor, on the other hand, looked like a team that hadn't experienced many games of this magnitude.

Baylor was also noticeably fatigued.

The first-half pace was frantic, Nolan Richardson-fast. Both teams hustled the ball up the court, spending little time searching for shots and often firing up the first available look. And Baylor thrived immediately, darting out to a 10-3 lead three minutes into the game. The Razorbacks settled in soon after Pelphrey called on his bench, and the opening 20 minutes turned into a half of spurts.

Pelphrey refused to put on a press, hoping to conserve energy and eventually tire the Bears. The strategy worked, as an exhausted Baylor squad couldn't keep up in the final minutes.

"It looks like those two-a-day workouts paid off," Thomas said.

Those grueling practices brought the Razorbacks closer as a team. Saturday night's victory should do the same.

"We all stuck together," senior center Darian Townes said. "We just wanted the win bad. Normally, teams fold when down nine or 10 points, but we kept fighting and chipping away, and we got the win."

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