Seniors Make Most of Final Home Game

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas center Steven Hill reached up, grabbed a pass from forward Sonny Weems and threw down an alley-oop dunk for the team's first points Saturday evening.

Nearly a minute later, forward Vincent Hunter attempted perhaps his favorite shot and sank a 3-pointer that gave the Razorbacks a quick 5-0 lead over Auburn.

And like that, Arkansas' unusually large senior class showed that it intended to do more in its final game in Bud Walton Arena than simply receive a few standing ovations and a half-dozen framed jerseys before tipoff.

Though criticized throughout their careers, the six seniors attacked the basket, defended the paint and found a way to contribute individually during the 77-64 win on national TV.

"Like coach (John Pelphrey) said before the game, seniors play like seniors," said Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin, who made up for scoring only two points by dishing out seven assists.

The five other upperclassmen got involved, as well.

Forward Darian Townes grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds to fulfill a promise he had made earlier in the day to record his final double-double at home. He added 12 points, eight coming in the first half.

Hill, meanwhile, made his mark by shutting down Auburn's big men in the paint and blocking three more shots to add to his career total.

And in perhaps the biggest surprise of them all, forward Charles Thomas scored 10 points off the bench to end what had been a frustrating regular season on a positive note.

"It feels real good, but you know what? It's really not about the individual; it's about the program," Thomas said. "It just felt real good coming out on top. My last home game, it was real emotional. It meant a lot for us, and hopefully it meant a lot to the fans."

Saturday marked the first time Thomas scored in double figures since contributing 13 points in an 82-69 loss at Georgia on Jan. 19, a stretch that spanned 10 games.

It was apparent from the beginning that the night belonged to Arkansas' seniors, even though sophomore guard Patrick Beverley did his best to upstage them by scoring 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting.

Pelphrey honored his seniors by putting five of them in the starting lineup. But he didn't have enough spots for all of them, forcing Thomas to watch the opening minutes from the bench.

But they each took turns having their moment on Senior Day.

Hunter, whom Thomas refers to as "the grandfather of the team," scored seven points in 14 minutes. Weems added another seven points despite shooting just 3-of-12 from the floor.

And Townes used his size to grab 11 rebounds in the first half, including four offensive rebounds. He did what Arkansas assistant coach Isaac Brown told him to do.

"He told me before I went out there, before warmups, he was like, ‘Please get a double-double for me for the last time,'" Townes said. "I told him I was going to get it and then I made a promise to him."

He didn't want to break a promise on Senior Day.

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