But just like the Southeastern Conference Tournament opener against Vanderbilt, the Razorbacks stood up to the latest challenge in the 86-72 win over Indiana in the RBC Center.
Arkansas center Darian Townes scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while teammate Steven Hill added 2 points and 2 rebounds. The tandem — which also got help from senior forward Charles Thomas — helped offset a tremendous night by Indiana big man D.J. White and push the Hogs into a second-round game against North Carolina.
White, the Big Ten's unanimous Player of the Year, scored 22 points and grabbed 8 rebounds to keep the Hoosiers in the game. But Arkansas' frontcourt came up with the critical plays down the stretch.
Hill dunked the ball midway through the second half, helping to end an Indiana run that cut the lead to 49-47. Townes followed with two putbacks, which made it 55-49 with nine minutes remaining.
After another Indiana run, Hill turned in one of the defensive plays of the game by blocking an Eric Gordon shot. Guard Sonny Weems hit a 3-pointer on the ensuring possession and Arkansas led 67-57.
Thomas got in on the act a couple minutes later, completing a three-point play to make it 70-59 and the Hoosiers never threatened again.
It was an impressive performance considering Arkansas' early foul trouble. Starter Vincent Hunter and Thomas spent much of the first half on the bench after combining for five fouls. The problems forced Arkansas coach John Pelphrey to play centers Steven Hill and Darian Townes together.
But the two played well together, pushing the Hogs into their biggest test of the year: A second-round date with North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough and the rest of the top-ranked Tar Heels.
Welsh Turns Ankle
Arkansas guard Stefan Welsh was injured with 7:18 left in the first half Friday and didn't return.
Welsh fell to the court and held his ankle after missing a 3-pointer. Arkansas trainer Dave England and coach John Pelphrey came out to the floor to check on the sophomore, who had to be helped off the court.
Arkansas didn't tinker with its starting lineup Friday night, but Indiana brought a new look to the court.
DeAndre Thomas, a beefy, 6-foot-8, 295-pound forward, started for just the sixth time this season in the tournament opener. The junior, who is averaging 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds, gave the Hoosiers another big body in the post to combat Arkansas' frontcourt of Darian Townes and Charles Thomas.
Thomas hadn't started since Indiana's 65-43 win against Iowa on Jan. 23.
Bad Shot Selection
Indiana coach Dan Dakich received a technical foul only 3 minutes, 45 seconds into the game when he took a dead ball and shot it at the rim from the sideline instead of giving it to the officials.
Weems made both free throws to give Arkansas a 9-7 lead. Dakich, meanwhile, missed the long 3-pointer that earned him the technical foul.
Making the Free Ones
Arkansas looked like Indiana on the free-throw line in the first half.
The Razorbacks, who were shooting 67.2 percent from the foul line entering the game, were 10-for-10 from the free-throw line. The Hoosiers, who were the best free-throw shooting team in the NCAA Tournament (76.3 percent), were just 1-for-4.
Arkansas didn't stay perfect long. Guard Patrick Beverley made his first free-throw after the break, but missed his second attempt.
Faces In The Crowd
The NCAA Tournament brought out some notable individuals on Friday, including Boston Celtics coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers, Charlotte Bobcats forward Adam Morrison and former Georgetown coach John Thompson.
Morrison, the third pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, looked dejected Friday afternoon as he watched Gonzaga — his former school — get eliminated with an 82-76 loss to Davidson.
At the same time, former NBA veteran Dell Curry cheered as his son, Stephen Curry, scored 40 points to carry Davidson into the second round. Immediately afterward, a group of reporters climbed into the stands to interview the elder Curry and get his reaction.
Rivers, whose son Jeremiah Rivers is a guard for Georgetown, was in attendance to catch the Hoyas' easy 66-47 win over the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Hogs Frontcourt Shines Against Hoosiers
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