Hogs Break For Finals

FAYETTEVILLE — This 98-70 victory over winless North Carolina Central revealed little about Arkansas' future prospects.

Sure, the Razorbacks bolted out to a 15-4 lead within five minutes Wednesday night in front of 12,424 fans at Bud Walton Arena. They posted season highs in field goal percentage (52.9) and free throw percentage (78.3).

They even received just the second triple-double in school history, watching freshman point guard Courtney Fortson pour in 20 points, dish out 11 assists and grab 10 rebounds.

But a season-high 26 turnovers and constant defensive lapses maddened John Pelphrey, so much so that Arkansas' second-year coach couldn't enjoy a 28-point blowout.

"We didn't play as well as we've been practicing," Pelphrey said. "I don't know if we learned anything tonight, but there are some things that will keep me up at night."

Among them was the way the Razorbacks finished the victory, which helped them improve to 6-1. North Carolina Central outscored the Hogs' reserves 12-4 over the final four minutes as Arkansas displayed the kind of mistake-prone basketball it exhibited all evening.

The lackadaisical play should mean that Arkansas' extended break for final exams won't be relaxing, junior forward Michael Washington said. The Razorbacks (6-1) don't play again until Dec. 17.

"We're going to have some really tough practices I bet," Washington said. "In some ways I was (happy about this game), in some ways I wasn't. Turnovers like that can lose a game for you."

Despite the struggles, which included North Carolina Central (0-10) making 13 shots from 3-point range, Arkansas' young squad did continue its maturation process Wednesday night.

Five other Razorbacks joined Fortson in double figures, led by Washington's 20 points and 12 rebounds.

The Hogs shattered their season-high scoring mark. They had plenty of high-intensity defensive possessions, turning 25 Eagles turnovers into 37 points. They also drastically improved their free throw shooting and showed immense comfort pushing tempo offensively.

Still, Fortson said the many negatives seemed to cancel out the positives.

"I think there were spurts of us playing the way we want to play, but on the other hand we had a lot of letdowns on defense," Fortson said. "We got very sloppy, and basically it was miscommunication (that caused the turnovers)."

For Pelphrey, the rocky effort may have provided the perfect prelude to the finals period.

Arkansas has until next Wednesday to get ready for its Jim Thorpe Classic-opener against Austin Peay. And the Razorbacks' failure to impress their coach against North Carolina Central ensures that Pelphrey won't pull back in the upcoming days.

"Overall I just think it was poor for whatever reason. We were careless with the ball and not operating well together," Pelphrey said. "There's a lot of things as a coach that you preach on a daily basis.

"To have a respect level for the game, a respect level for who's in the other locker room ... and a respect level for that jersey. We preach those things on a daily basis. Do we always get them? Probably not. I'd say tonight was one of those nights where we didn't."

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