Whatever lesson true freshman Jason Henry was supposed to be learning, it apparently took.
Henry came off a three-game suspension with a game-high 19 points to lead the University of Arkansas to a 80-61 rout of Texas Southern Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
Fellow true freshmen Rotnei Clarke added 16 points and Michael Sanchez chipped in 10 and Courtney Fortson a career-high 11 assists for the Razorbacks (5-1), who trailed only once in the contest.
"Our whole team has had a really good attitude lately," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "That is a really good place to start. We played pretty hard tonight. We've still got to play better - our defense still seems to come and go a little bit - and we need to make more free throws...
Henry, who had not played since Arkansas' loss to Missouri State back on Nov. 22, came back with a vengence on Wednesday, while playing small forward, shooting guard and even point guard near the end of the game.
"For two weeks, he made the decision to play harder than he ever had in practice, to be a better human being and have a better attitude and that's why he had success tonight," Pelphrey said. "It was a product of what he has been doing.
"..We got a little glimpse of the talent he has," Pelphrey added. "He has been in a really good place for about two weeks now. He's made the decision to do the right thing on and off the court."
Henry, who had played two games and scored just two points coming into Wednesday night, echoed that sentiment.
"I think it made me a better person and a better teammate," Henry said. "...I just kept practicing hard and executing."
Henry had 10 of his points by halftime and was 6-of-9 from the field, 3-of-4 from 3-point range and 2-of-5 from the free throw line.
"He's a terrific passer, he has great speed, he's got a lot to learn from an experience standpoint, but he can shoot the ball, can hit from the 3-point line," Pelphrey said. "I've always said that Jason has a great understanding of how to play. I have a great appreciation for him in terms of understanding Xs and Os...He understands what I am trying to get across."
Henry said he knows what he has to do coming off the bench.
"I never waste time," Henry said. "As soon as I get in there, I get to it."
The Razorbacks had jumped out to a 27-11 lead by the time Texas Southern Ricky Harvey had seen enough.
He said something to earn his second technical and thus and ejection with 9:31 left in the opening half.
"It was a tough, sloppy game," Harvey said. "I only saw about 11 minutes of it, so I really had no control over it. We should have slowed them down and that was our goal. We would have had a better chance if we could have done that. Arkansas played great. I can't take anything away from them."
The Razorbacks continued to build their lead, cresting in the first half on Sanchez' free throw that put his team up 40-19 with 3:27 remaining before halftime.
Texas Southern (0-7) did make a mild run to get back within 43-25 by intermission, but that was as close as the Tigers would get the rest of the night.
Henry's 3-pointer boosted it to 61-33 with 12:33 left – a play that came right before the 5-10 Courtney Fortson blocked the shot of player nearly a foot taller than him.
Clarke caught fire late, burying a pair of his 4 3-pointers, on consecutive trips down the court to surge the home team ahead 73-48.
Fortson's 10th assist was to Henry, whose bucket made it 77-50 with just over 3 minutes left.
He had 11 assists with just one turnover.
" Fortson was unbelievable tonight," Pelphrey said. "This was his best game of the season with 11 assists and just one turnover."
All 10 players scored, including late insert Steven Cox, who hit a free throw with 1:04 remaining.
Michael Washington added 7 points and 9 rebounds for Arkansas, Andre Clark 8 points and 5 rebounds, and Stefan Welsh 7 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, Fortson 6 points and Brandon Moore 3 points.
The Razorbacks were without junior small forward Montrell McDonald, who was suspended for a second straight game.
The UA squad shot 42.9 percent from the field, 38.5 from 3-point range and just 55 percent (16-of-29) from the free throw line while having 20 assists to 10 turnovers and out-rebounding its foe 39-30.
"We like the two-to-one assist to turnover ratio," Pelphrey said. "We did a better job of being fast in transition. We need our bigs to keep running the floor like that."
Arkansas, shooting just 60 percent from the line this season, has to get better according to Pelphrey.
"Nobody is guarding you, have the courage - you're a Division I basketball player - to get up there and make the free throw," Pelphrey said.
DeAndre Hall led Texas Southern with 19 points and Michael Drewy added 10 for the Tigers, who shot 48.9 percent from the floor, 26.7 percent from 3-point range and 61.1 percent from the charity stripe.
They also had 18 turnovers to 14 assists, but Pelphrey was miffed that the visitors shot 50 percent in the second half.
Arkansas will be off a week before returning to action next Wednesday with a game against visiting North Carolina Central.
"We need the work on our defense," Pelphrey said. "We've got to get tougher and more physical. We are going to make sure we get to class and focus on that on our week off. We've just got to get better on D."
Jason Henry had a game-high 19 points.
Courtney Fortson dishes off one of his career-high 11 assists.
Andre Clark slams one home.
Michael Sanchez drives for two of his 10 points.
Stefan Welsh gets inside for a pair of his seven points.
Brandon Moore battles for a loose ball.
Stephen Cox gets into the lane while being fouled.
John Pelphrey shouts instructions
Arkansas 80, Texas Southern 61
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