It might have been Senior Night at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday, but it was a sophomore whose game is roaring back that played like his hair was on fire.
Patrick Beverley had a season-high 27 points while knocking down all 6 of his 3-pointers and senior Darian Townes added 12 points and a career-high 12 rebounds as Arkansas whipped Auburn 77-64 before 19,173 fans in the regular season finale.
"For our side of it, I am very happy for our six young men," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said of his six seniors. "For whatever reason they have played outstanding in their careers at Bud Walton Arena. They love it - coming in here and playing and having the enthusiasm helps them go to another level."
Senior Charles Thomas added 10 points, Stefan Welsh 8 and seniors Sonny Weems and Vincent Hunter 7 each as the Razorbacks (20-10, 9-7) – who have six seniors - shot 56.7 percent from the field in the first half and 52.6 percent for the game.
Senior UA point guard Gary Ervin dished out 7 assists and senior Steven Hill had 3 blocks to push his career total to 311.
"I was happy for them to win on Senior Day and for them all to have a chance to contribute," Pelphrey said.
It pushed their home mark to 15-1 this season, helped their NCAA Tournament chances, made John Pelphrey the winningest first-year Arkansas coach ever and also gave him his 100th victory as a head coach.
Only Tennessee and Vanderbilt - both unbeaten at home this season - had better mark among the 12 SEC teams in their own building.
"Coach Pelphrey is a high intensity guy and we feed off his energy and intensity," Thomas said. " It's not about the individual, it's about the program. Today was very emotional. Nobody wants to be remembered for losing on Senior Day."
Arkansas, who earned the SEC Western Division second seed, has an opening round bye in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta next week.
The Razorbacks will begin play on Friday in a 2:15 p.m. quarterfinal round game against the winner of Thursday's match-up between Vanderbilt (25-6, 10-6) and Auburn (14-15, 4-12).
"This was a big win for us," Townes noted. "We knew Auburn would bring multiple defenses and we were strong in the frontcourt. (The seniors) wanted to finish our career in this building with a win.
"Getting 20 wins is great, but it is a new season starting next weekend," Townes added. "That round bye helps us get our legs ready."
Beverley was 9-of-11 from the field, 6-of-6 from 3-point range and 3 of 4 from the free throw line. He also chipped in 8 rebounds and 4 steals.
"I've just rededicated myself to the gym and it's been paying off for me," Beverley said. "Coach Pelphrey and the staff prepared us very well. We wanted to come out and get this victory for our seniors."
The injury-riddled and undersized Tigers did cut a 20-point second half lead down to 10 at one point, but Beverley's 6th 3-pointer seconds later kept them from cutting it even further.
It was the first time this season that Beverley had topped 20 points and was Townes' first double-double of the year.
"Patrick was spectacular tonight," Pelphrey said. "Every time he got open he knocked down big 3-pointers."
Pelphrey actually destroyed a Razorback logo by putting his foot through the sign on the scorer's table. His team went on a 32-12 run after that.
"I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not, but I did think that we needed something," Pelphrey said. "We needed somebody to challenge us, we needed a fight to break out, we needed a hard foul - something to get the whole place buzzing a little bit. I did not turn around and kick that thing for that to happen, but I think something did happen."
When Hill dunked and was fouled with 1:07 left it gave Arkansas the Razorbacks a 75-61 and the seniors then left to ovations.
It was the fourth straight loss for Auburn and its 8th in their last 10 contests.
"We know that when Arkansas plays in Bud Walton Arena that they are going to go on runs," Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo said. "We just wanted to try and and limit the runs and try to stop the bleeding."
Arkansas began bombing away from beyond the 3-point arc midway through the first half to give itself a cushion.
Beverley and Welsh each buried a pair of 3-pointers during a stretch where the Razorbacks turned a 13-11 lead into a 31-18 advantage.
Gary Ervin's lay-up boosted the lead to 33-18 with 7:22 left in the half before Beverley took aim again.
He swished two more 3-pointers, the last one with 3:16 left that surged his team ahead 41-23.
Townes' rebound basket got it to 45-23 before the Razorbacks settled for a 45-26 halftime advantage.
Frank Tolbert had 17 points to lead Auburn while Rasheem Barrett added 13 and Quantez Robertson 12.
Tolbert noted his team's defensive philosophy worked out, but Arkansas burying 10-of-19 3-pointers made it backfire on the Tigers.
"When we were in the zone today, they weren't able to pound it inside and had to stick to the three ball," Tolbert said.
Arkansas 77, Auburn 64
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