Arkansas 76, Auburn 70

Patrick Beverley and Sonny Weems each pour in 17 points and Charles Thomas 14 as Arkansas shoots nearly 60 percent from the field in its SEC opener while downing homestanding Auburn 76-60 Thursday night before 6,079 fans at Beard-Eaves Memorial Colisuem.

It may have not been a thing of beauty, but especially when you are the University of Arkansas, there is nothing quite as beautiful as a road win.

Patrick Beverley and Sonny Weems each had 17 points and Charles Thomas added 14 as the Razorbacks fended off Auburn 76-70 Thursday night before 6,079 fans at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in both teams' SEC season-opening contest.

"We felt like this was a wonderful opportunity for us to start on the road with one game and to be able to come in and get this and kind of get out front," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "…Everytime you win one on the road you feel like you are stealing something."

The win was the third straight overall for Arkansas (12-3, 1-0), who won their league opener under new head coach John Pelphrey after a stretch in which the program had won just 7 of 40 SEC road contests under former head coach Stan Heath.

"I thought a big thing for our team is that we all stayed focused," Pelphrey said. "I told them before the game that I didn't want to be able to tell what was going on by looking at their faces. ‘Don't act like you haven't had a lead before, don't act like you have ever been down. Play for 40 minutes.'"

It came in large part because the Razorbacks shot 57.7 percent from the field and 9-of-19 3-pointers and despite going just 7-of-17 from the free throw line.

Beverley certainly did his part by knocking down 5-of-6 3-pointers and grabbing a team-high 8 rebounds on a night the Tigers actually outrebounded the Razorbacks 31-30.

For the second straight, Weems was a star after halftime with 15 of his 17 coming in the second half.

Arkansas had 21 assists and just 12 turnovers while Auburn had 11 miscues in a game that was nationally televised by ESPN and featured the two teams going up and down the court.

"it was a good team effort,' Pelphrey said. "We didn't have just one guy step up, but the team did."

Rasheem Barrett had a game-high 21 points, Frank Tolbert 15, Quan Prowell 13 and Lucas Hargrove 10 for Auburn (9-4), despite having just 7 healthy scholarship players.

"We knew that Auburn has had a lot of adversity, but they have also had a lot of experience," Pelphrey said. "Their guys play really, really hard and to be in their own building and a nationally televised game, we know there would be a lot of energy and emotion for the first conference game. I told our guys how hard it was going to be to win."

The undersized Tigers hit 5 of their first 7 3-pointers, but only 4 of 28 after that point on a night when they launched a whopping 35.

"I told the guys before the game I thought they would shoot 30," Pelphrey said. "I was wrong. They shot 35. They had speed and quickness at all five spots and we had size."

Beverley had 12 of his points – coming on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the three point arc by halftime - as Arkansas rallied from eight points down late in the opening half to take a 37-36 lead to the break.

Michael Washington's lay-up pushed Arkansas ahead 48-43 with 16:05 left in the game, but Quantez Robertson's 3-pointer tied it 50-50 at the 11:53 mark.

Beverley and Weems both knocked down consecutive 3-pointers to get the Razorbacks ahead 60-53 with 7:40 left in the game.

Weems then buried another triple to surge Arkansas ahead 65-58 at the 5:59 mark.

Auburn made another push, cutting it to 67-65 when Quan Prowell it a pair of free throws with 3:40 remaining.

Weems' 15-footer gave his team some breathing room and Beverley's pass to Townes for a dunk and a 71-66 advantage with just over two minutes left.

Auburn had two 3-pointers to tie the game in the last minute, but missed both and then Washington hit a free throw with 28 seconds left to put the lead at four.

That free throw by Washington (7 points, 7 rebounds) ended a stretch of seven straight misses by the Razorbacks.

"The free throw line is so, so important and it kept us from getting a bigger lead during the middle part of the game," Pelphrey said. "But that last one was a big one because it gave us a two-possession lead. We were very fortunate to get a win. You don't make those free throws like that and normally bad things can happen to you."

Beverley's lay-up near the buzzer set the final margin.

Ervin had 9 points, Steven Hill 6, Darian Townes 4 and Stefan Welsh 2 to round out the scoring for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas will return to action Sunday when it hosts Alabama at 3:05 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

"It doesn't get any easier in terms of our opponents," Pelphrey said. "Alabama is going to be ready to go coming off a tough home loss to Florida. They are going to be out to try and make one up."


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