On a night when the University of Arkansas' outside shooting was less than stellar, the Razorbacks were powered by the paint.
Courtney Fortson poured in 16 points, Stefan Welsh 14, Michael Sanchez had a double-double with 12 points and 12 as Arkansas whipped the University of California-Davis 68-59 before a crowd of 11,600 at Bud Walton Arena.
"They have a great squad and a great system," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said of Cal-Davis' Princeton-like attack. "Tonight we had to step up and make some free throws and we did that. They've got a different style of play and our defense stepped it up and I am very proud of them."
Michael Washington added 11 points and Rotnei Clarke 9 for Arkansas (2-0), who had 40 points inside the paint - including a whopping 26 of its first 28 points near the basket - and also cashed in 19 free throws on the night.
That was needed in a contest where the Razorbacks – who buried 7 3-pointers in their opening win - were a dismal 1-of-13 from 3-point range and scored just nine points on jumpers in game two of the season.
"When you get into a situation like that, you've got to ask yourself, are you going to be able to drive and get some inside shots and points elsewhere and we did that," Pelphrey said. "I am very happy about that."
The 6-1 Clarke, who hit 5 3-pointers in the opener, was 0-of-3 from that range and 2-of-8 overall on Thursday night while being shadowed by 6-8 Kyle Brucculeri.
He did hit all 5 of his free throws after not getting to the line in the opener.
"We knew they were going to do that to Clarke," Pelphrey said. "That created some lanes for us and he can be a great help even without taking a shot."
Arkansas won the board battle 44-29 while forcing 15 turnovers and committing 13.
Sanchez had 12 boards for the second straight game.
"Sanchez was huge inside, he absolutely played relentless," Pelphrey said. "It was good to see him play with such tenacity; it was great to see him have success."
Notre Dame transfer Joe Harden led Big West Conference member Cal-Davis (1-3) with 16 points while 6-7 point guard Mark Payne added 11.
It was the third tough loss in four road games to start the season for the Aggies, who had a 24-point first-half lead at Iowa State and a 14-point advantage before intermission at Wisconsin-Milwaukee before dropping both games and then beating Loyola-Marymount.
"We did some really good things out there tonight," UC-Davis head coach Gary Stewart said. "Our goal was to limit Michael Washington's touches. However, we did not show our best on the court tonight."
The Razorbacks shot 42.9 percent from the field, but held the Aggies to just 32.7 percent.
Cal-Davis did knock down 9 3-pointers and 14-of-16 free throws to stay in the contest.
"I thought Mark did a terrific job tonight as well as Joe, who played a great game, making a lot of shots for our team."
Arkansas led 44-29 early in the second half before Cal-Davis went on a 15-4 run to cut it to 48-44 on Dominic Calgari's 3-pointer with 13:41 left in the game.
That included one stretch where the Aggies hit five free throws on one trip down court via a foul on a 3-point attempt and an ensuing technical on Pelphrey.
But the Razorbacks slowly started to grab a cushion from the free throw line – where they would score their next 9 points - and then surged ahead 59-46 on Welsh's fast-break lay-up with 8:04 remaining.
The Aggies would cut it to 6 at the 3:08 mark, but that was as close as they could get.
"That's a good basketball team we played tonight," Welsh said. "They did what they had to do coming into a building like this, but like I said, we did our job a little better and were able to come out with a victory."
Fortson scored 9 of his 12 first-half points and seven straight in an 11-0 run late in the first half.
That spree was capped by his 3-pointer that surged the Razorbacks ahead 33-16 with 3:56 left in the opening half.
"We wanted to command the backcourt and we did that," Pelphrey said.
Cal-Davis steadied itself and went on a 7-0 to cut it to 33-23 on Brucculeri's 3-pointer with 1:59 remaining.
Fortson's free throw with 18 seconds left capped the first half scoring and sent Arkansas to the break with a 36-27 advantage.
Arkansas will play its first road game on Saturday night when it will help Missouri State (1-1) open its new John Q. Hammons Arena in Springfield, Mo.
It's the first game at the "Q" - an 11,000-seat facility that cost $67 million.
"Here at home, even when we don't play well we have a chance to win with such great support," Pelphrey said. "On the road, we'll have to play through the tough spots and respond. We've already put this one behind us. It was a great win, but we've got to look ahead to our first road game."
Courtney Fortson gets inside for two of his team-high 16 points as Cal-Davis' Joe Harden (22) and Dominic Calegari (41) and Arkansas' Montrell McDonald (5) and Michael Sanchez (31) look on.
Michael Sanchez slams one home as Harden watches.
Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas' 6-1 guard, is hounded by 6-8 Cal-Davis forward Kyle Brucculeri, who constantly had a hand up.
Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey pleads his case with a referee on Thursday night - the same ref who would later give him a technical.
Jason Henry (1) tries to get past Vince Oliver.
Michael Washington goes up for a shot.
Arkansas 68, UC-Davis 59
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