Arkansas 91, SELA 87 (OT)

Michael Washington has a career night with 30 points and 14 rebounds, Courtney Fortson has 18 points and 7 assists and fellow true freshmen Rotnei Clarke 17 points with 5 3-pointers as Arkansas wins its season opener by rallying to down Southeastern Louisiana 91-87 in overtime Friday night at Bud Walton Arena before 11,500 fans.

The first of what is likely to be season's worth of exciting games at Bud Walton Arena – win or lose - is in the books.

Nothing like wiping out a 9-point deficit with 5 minutes left in regulation and going into overtime to get things started.

Junior Michael Washington had a monster game with career highs of 30 points and 14 rebounds and tthe University of Arkansas needed almost all of them to outlast Southeastern Louisiana 91-87 before an estimated 11,500 fans in both team's season opener.

"I don't know that we did a lot of things great and I'm not sure we deserved to win, but our kids showed a lot of heart and we're not going to give back the win," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "But we have a lot to improve on and a lot to learn."

Courtney Fortson had 18 points and 7 assists and fellow true freshmen guard Rotnei Clarke 17 points with 5 3-pointer while redshirt freshman forward Michael Sanchez had 12 rebounds.

The late rally kept the Razorbacks' 35-year winning streak in home openers alive as well as boosting its season-opening win streak to 14.

"We just buckled down," Clarke said. "We went off the passion of the fans. We had a great fan base tonight."

Pelphrey echoed the sentiment.

"The only reason we won tonight was because we were playing at home in front of our fans and scored a few more points than the did," Pelphrey said.

Washington, who played 41 minutes, was unavailable to the press after the game because he was cramping up.

" (Washington) plays so hard," Clarke said. "At practice he shows a lot of character and leadership and it carries over into the game. He's great on offense and he's also a great defender."

Arkansas trailed 70-61 with 5:52 left in the game, by 8 with 2:40 remaining and 76-70 with just 1:40 showing before rallying for the win.

"No, we did not panic," Fortson said. "Everytime we went off the court, Coach Pelphrey said we were going to win the game."

Montrell McDonald, who had 8 points and 7 rebounds, said it was a matter of righting the ship.

"There was no doubt we would pull it out," McDonald said. "We knew we had to get it together."

The Razorbacks scored seven of the last 8 points in regulation including Clarke's 3-pointer while falling out of bounds with 29.3 seconds left showing and Fortson's bucket inside with 8.7 on the clock that tied things at 77-77.

Junior Stefan Welsh then took a charge with 3.5 seconds remaining to push things into the extra time.

With Arkansas down 81-80 with 2:28 left, Washington scored the game's next seven points – including 5-of-6 free throws and then a dunk that put his team up 87-81 at the 26.1 mark.

Kevyn Green, who led the Lions with 21 points, buried 2 long-distance 3-pointers to get his team with 88-87 with 7.9 seconds left, but Stefan Welsh added a pair of free throws and Fortson one to put the game away.

It was a poor effort from the free throw line early that put the Razorbacks in the situation of having to rally at the end.

Arkansas made just 2 of its first 8 free throws and ended up an abysmal 57.2 percent (24-of-42) on the night.

The Razorbacks also had 9 of their 13 turnovers in the opening half and shot just 42.9 percent from the field.

"We had some problems with ball handling and free throws and we really need to work on passing and catching the ball with two hands," Pelphrey said.

Warrell Spann added 20 points, Patrick Sullivan 12 points and 11 rebounds and Robert Tibbs 11 points as Southeastern Louisiana added to their list of near misses at Alabama, LSU and Iowa last season.

"Well, this game is the good news, bad news type of game," Lions head coach Jim Yarbrough said. "Believe or not, we came in here expecting to win. We've had close games like this against big opponents the past couple of years, and now we can add Arkansas to that list."

Arkansas jumped out to 8-3 and 14-9 leads, ones the could have built on except for some early horrible free throw shooting.

Instead the Razorbacks only hit 4 of their first 11 charity tosses and Southeastern Louisiana slowly begin to take the momentum.

A 6-0 spurt capped by Jeremy Dunbar's jumper gave the Lions a 17-15 lead with 11:41 left in the opening half.

The lead would then switch hands 9 times before intermission, the last time on Green's basket that pushed the visitors ahead 32-31 with 4:30 showing on the clock.

That margin would grow to 5 before Washington's free throw that capped the scoring before intermission and cut Arkansas' deficit to 38-36 at the break.

"Coming to a place like this and starting off like this was good for our team," Yarbrough said. "We came out playing some freshmen at guard and competing in a place like this will really help us."

Southeastern Louisiana went up 7 early in the second half before Arkansas' first consistent offensive stretch got it to within 57-56 on Marcus Britt's 3 –pointer with 9:36 left in the game.

But Span's old-fashioned 3-point play surged the Lions back ahead 70-61 with 5:52 showing.

The Razorbacks then closed regulation with a 16-7 run - including Clarke's 3-pointer that cut it from 76-72 to 76-75 with 28 seconds left.

"If you keep giving a team enough chances, eventually they will take advantage of them," Yarbrough said. "I knew if we gave Clarke the shot at the end, he'd make it, and he did."

Clarke in turn gave credit to the fans.

"(This was) a tribute to the fans," Clarke said. "We really rallied around them. They really picked us up tonight."

The Razorbacks will return to action Thursday night against visiting California-Davis before traveling to Missouri State to open its new arena two days later.

Both of those teams pened their seasons on Friday night with road losses with Iowa State rallying from 14 points down to beat Cal-Davis 61-58 and Auburn topping Missouri State 75-60.

"It's not going to get any easier for us," Pelphrey said. "But we've got several practices to go and improve on a lot of things."





Razorback guard Stefan Welsh (14) is congratulated by teammates Courtney Fortson, Montrell McDonald and Michael Washington after taking a charge with two seconds left in regulation.





UA point guard Courtney Fortson had 18 points and got a lot of his work done inside.





Rotnei Clarke hit 5 3-pointers while scoring 17 points in the win.





Michael Sanchez and Fortson get after Brandon Fortenberry.





Montrell McDo

nald had 7 points, 8 rebounds and a pair of steals in the win.





Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey yells instructions at his team.


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