Arkansas 67, Stephen F. Austin 51

Michael Washington earns MVP honors of the Jim Thorpe Classic and teammates Courtney Fortson and Stefan Welsh join him on the all-tournament team after Arkansas whips Stephen F. Austin 67-51 in the championship game.

The man in the middle made away with the MVP.

Michael Washington earned that honor with 17 points and 13 rebounds as the University of Arkansas downed Stephen F. Austin 67-51 in the Jim Thorpe Classic championship game Saturday night before 11,183 fans in the at Bud Walton Arena.

Courtney Fortson (13 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds and Stefan Welsh (12 points on 4 3-pointers) were also named to the All-Tournament squad and Jason Henry added 12 for Arkansas (8-1), who has won six straight.

"We came out hardnosed, nasty and tough," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. "The team played well tonight, but we need to come out and play consistently every night like we did tonight. We need to be committed to defense. Our defense got really good. Courtney Fortson was really good."

The Razorbacks – who will have a week off from games for Christmas - effectively put the game away early in the second half with a 12-2 run against the Lumberjacks (7-3).

Welsh and the 6-10, 240-pound Washington each had 6 points each in that run – a spree that was capped by Washington's rebound basket that surged the Razorbacks ahead 50-34 with 12:14 left in the game.

That basket gave Washington – who amazing didn't have a foul despite his aggressive play - his fifth double-double of the young season.

The three-team Classic featured three single games on three different nights.

Arkansas whipped Austin Peay 88-80 on Wednesday, Stephen F. Austin buried Austin Peay 93-54 on Friday and then the Razorbacks whipped the Lumberjacks to earn the title.

The Lumberjacks were 24-6 last season with a win at Oklahoma and have four starters back off that team.

"I knew coming in here that (SFA) was a good team, but I didn't have to do anything to grab the attention of the players, mainly because they got to see what kind of team Stephen F. Austin was from the stands before we even played them.

"There were other things weighing on them, too, considering what Stephen F. Austin did to Oklahoma last year and what Oklahoma did to us."

Stephen F. Austin coach Danny Kaspar was impressed with what he saw from Arkansas.

"We did not play our best tonight," Kaspar said. "We saw a lot of fire in Arkansas. They would knock us down then we would get up, then (they would knock us) down again. Their defense was pretty good tonight, better actually than I remember it being.

"No major league team wants to come in and be knocked off by an SEC team," Kaspar added. "They did a lot of damage to ourselves. They outhustled us and they wanted it more than we did tonight."

The Razorbacks raced out to a 17-6 lead by the time Rotnei Clarke buried a 3-pointer off a Welsh assist at the 12:16 mark.

But Stephen F. Austin steadied itself, ripped off the game's next eight points and had rallied to tie it 22-22 when Matt Kingsley scored inside with 7:06 left in the half.

The Razorbacks controlled the rest of the first 20 minutes, which ended with a flurry as they scored the last 11 points.

That run started with a Washington steal and dunk and ended with him swatting away a shot at the buzzer.

Welsh's 3-pointer with 7 seconds left has given Arkansas a 35-24 lead it took to the break.

The Razorbacks shot 51 percent from the field in the first half and 46.3 percent for the game.

They hit 7-of-14 3-pointers and held the Lumberjacks to 42.9 percent from the field.

Austin Peay's Drake Reed and Stephen F. Austin's Matt Kingsley and Josh Alexander were also named to the all-tournament squad.

Alexander had 17 to lead the Lumberjacks while Kingsley and Matt Shaw had 8 each.

The Razorbacks – who will be off of practice from now until Christmas Day - will return to action next Saturday when they host Northwestern State in a Saturday afternoon game that will be televised by ESPN2.

"It's tough when you are playing your best basketball to go home, but this is an important break," Pelphrey said. "We have a lot of first-year guys that need to go home, get away from here and create some memories with the family."

Arkansas will then run a gantlet of home games against nationally ranked Oklahoma and Texas with North Texas sandwiched in between.

Then it will be opening SEC play at home against Mississippi State on Jan. 10.

"I want to get them back, get them up and down the floor and get their conditioning back and try to get back and play well," Pelphrey said. "We have an important game on the 27th and then we need to finish this thing off right before we get into conference play."





Arkansas players accept the Jim Thorpe Classic championship trophy.





Arkansas freshmen Brandon Moore hands the ball off to teammate Courtney Fortson after coming up with a steal.





Fortson scores two of his 13 points.





Rotnei Clarke drives to the basket against Girod Adams.





John Pelphrey voices his displeasure during Saturday night's game.





Former Razorback football great Marcus Monk guards Nick Shaw in his first game with the team.





Monk grabs one of his rebounds in the contest.


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