Juniors' Big First Half Paces Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE — A white towel draped over his head, Stefan Welsh was nearly halfway to the Arkansas locker room when he turned around Monday night.

He found Michael Washington near the Bud Walton Arena scorer's table, moments after the Razorbacks' 103-58 exhibition victory over NAIA Campbellsville, and the two juniors slapped hands.

Their similar looking smiles revealed how pleased they were with their debut as leaders.

"The good thing about me and Mike is we've had a great sense of chemistry since we were 16," Welsh said. "I know where he likes the ball. He knows when to get me the ball. We're established in knowing what we can do.

"Once we get everybody on the same page as us, we're going to be a pretty devastating basketball team."

Granted, the Tigers may possess the least talent of any opponent the Razorbacks will face this season. But the Hogs' performance in front of 4,500 fans left even Arkansas coach John Pelphrey surprised about the margin of victory.

His six newcomers gained valuable experience, and Pelphrey knew Welsh and Washington deserved credit for the effort and production of the new Razorbacks.

"They did what we needed them to do," Pelphrey said. "They both performed well stats-wise, and they have done a good job leading us to this point in time."

Welsh and Washington combined for 29 of Arkansas' 52 first-half points and finished with a combined 42 points. Welsh, a 6-foot-3 guard, knocked down six of his eight shots for 15 first-half points. He went on to nail four 3-pointers, helping the Hogs hit 10 of 20 from beyond the arc.

Washington, a 6-9 forward, had 14 points and a team-high six rebounds before halftime. Named second-team preseason all-SEC by the conference's coaches early on Monday, Washington showed off an array of offensive moves later in the day.

He nailed a 3-pointer early in the game but tallied the rest of his points from within 15 feet. He backed down Campbellsville defenders with ease and scored on spin moves, jump hooks, mid-range jumpers and offensive putbacks.

But it was his defensive contributions that drew the loudest roars from the crowd. Washington drew three charging fouls in the first half alone.

"Mike does that every day," Welsh said. "In practice, he leads the team in charges. That was nothing new to us."

Washington played the most integral role in helping Arkansas recover from a sluggish start, scoring 10 of the Hogs' first 13 points and fueling a 18-2 run after Campbellsville led 7-3.

"Michael Washington was basically unstoppable inside tonight," Arkansas freshman guard Rotnei Clarke said.

Then again, even Welsh and Washington weren't immune to breakdowns, just like their inexperienced teammates.

The Razorbacks committed 21 turnovers, and Washington had six of them. Welsh only had two miscues but each was extremely careless — one a lazy pass, the other a palming violation.

Still, Welsh and Washington helped Arkansas achieve more than even its coach expected and aided in the Razorbacks beginning their long, arduous maturation process.

"Most teams know what they do well," Welsh said. "We're still in the process of finding ourselves. We took a gigantic step toward finding ourselves, and now we've just got to get back to work."

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