Arkansas 95, Northwestern State 56

Stefan Welsh has a career-high 27 points, Courtney Fortson adds 18 points and 9 assists and Marcus Britt a career-high 15 points as Arkansas rolls over Northwestern (La.) State 95-56 Saturday night before a season-high crowd of 14,022 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

So much for the post-Christmas hangover.

Stefan Welsh scored a career-high 27 points and Courtney Fortson added 18 points and 9 assists as the University of Arkansas returned from a week's break for the holidays by routing Northwestern (LA) State 95-56 Saturday night before a season-high 14,022 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

Marcus Britt added a career-high 15 while knocking down a a trio of 3-pointers, Andre Clark added a career-high 10 and Michael Sanchez had a game-high 10 rebounds as the Razorbacks (9-1) won their seventh straight game.

"We were certainly very excited about getting back from the break and I would say - for the most part and especially in the first half - show some continued improvement," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "The numbers were excellent the first half with the exception of being outrebounded."

It was a game where Arkansas' players constantly dove on the floor - one time all five hit the deck for a loose ball - and Fortson even wiped out a cheerleader while trying to save the ball up 35.

"I loved the effort and I think the team played hard," Pelphrey said. "I appreciate that. I think that is the way it should be played. I think this program has had guys in the past that have given it up like that. We are not going to try and be the past, but we certainly honor it and we aspire to do some of those same things that have been done here.

"I love it when those guys are on the floor - it shows how much it means to them, it shows that jersey is not just another jersey, it is a special piece of cloth," Pelphrey said. "But when he (Fortson) went into the cheerleaders there after getting hit in the head, I was like we are going to win the game, I just need to get him to the bench."

Welsh - who hit 8 of his first 10 shots before missing his last three - bombed in 6 3-pointers on a day when Arkansas was 11-of-24 from 3-point range, shot 45.1 percent from the field overall and forced the visitors into 35 percent shooting and into 20 of their 29 turnovers by intermission.

"Obviously I am happy for Stef and he had a big offensive night and made a lot of baskets," Pelphrey said. "Courtney - I thought again - was just hardnosed and tough and made people better. It was also good to see Marcus Britt have a big night. You are happy to see those things for him."

The Razorbacks raced out to a 54-25 halftime lead in tuning up for a Tuesday night home match-up with No. 4 Oklahoma (11-0).

The Demons (8-5) had won four straight games coming, but had also come up short in games at LSU (91-60), at Indiana (83-65) and at Miami (94-66).

The blowout win actually happened without a major contribution from leading scorer Michael Washington, who came in averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds per game, and Rotnei Clarke, who had 7 points - 6 below his average on a 2-of-11 night fron the field.

Washington had just 6 points and 3 rebounds on Saturday while Sanchez had only 2 points to go with his 10 rebounds.

"Mike and Mike probably didn't score the ball as much as they have been, but I am going to give credit to Northwestern State," Pelphrey said. "I thought they did a very good job, especially early of making it difficult on those guys around the basket. Sanchez mixed it up and got 10 rebounds, which was a positive. Obviously Rotnei didn't have one of his better games, but we know what all three of those guys can do."

Northwestern State jumped to an 8-2 lead and actually led 10-9 before the door fell out from under it about the same time Fortson entered the game.

A 32-8 run by the Razorbacks was capped by 12 unanswered points and punctuated by Washington's slam that surged the Razorbacks ahead 41-18 with 7:29 remaining in the first half.

That spree started when Fortson entered the game after not starting for the first time this season.

Fortson, who had started the first 9 games, actually came off the bench after violating a team rule.

"Certainly we have to remind them from time to time what is important," Pelphrey said. "I am very excited about what Courtney has given our basketball team. That's kind of all I have to say on it.

"He has a chance to be a very special basketball player and has already done some special things," Pelphrey continued. "But obviously I have to tell those guys when they do wrong and I have no problems telling them positive things, too. He has gotten God-given ability and he has got this thing about him where he is tough and hard-nosed.

"His attitude has been phenomenal of late - not that it had been bad - but it has not been freshman-like," Pelphrey added. "There were points in time where things would bother him and you may loose him for a minute, but he is not doing that now. He obviously handled his disciplined today and got out there and played very well."

Arkansas played everybody – including former walk on Steven Cox and current walk ons John Paul Nolan and Nick Mason - except freshman small forward Jason Henry, who dressed for the game, but did not play.

"Jason Henry is hurt," Pelphrey said. "He has done nothing wrong. I am not a doctor, but I believe he is probably going to have surgery on Monday. It's not like he blew his knee out...My understanding is that he has gotten something floating around in there. His knee keeps catching and then he will be fine. But this has happened pretty frequently here in the last 24 hours.

"It is not in his best interest or our best interest to have him good one day and bad the next," Pelphrey added. "It changes every 15 minutes. He is not getting better in that environment and neither are we. It is still going to be two or three weeks. There's probably no question about that."

Welsh's two free throws gave Arkansas its largest lead of the half at 31 with only two points being scored in the final 128 seconds before intermission and the Razorbacks taking a 54-25 lead to the break.

Welsh's 3-point gave him a career-high 27 and was followed by Britt's 3-pointer that gave Arkansas a 71-39 lead with 14:10 left.

He had a chance to join Michael Washington be the second Razorback to score 30 in a game this season, but injured himself with over 8 minutes left and did not return.

New addition Marcus Monk – the former UA football star - playing in just his second game – added his first points late in the game on a drive to the basket that put his team up 85-47.

That lead would soon grow to 40, the largest lead of the season for the Razorbacks in any of its games.

The only downers for Arkansas were being outrebounded 47-44 and only hitting 20-of-36 free throws.

Now comes the biggest challenge of the season with the Sooners rolling into Fayetteville on Tuesday night.

"It is a wonderful opportunity for our basketball team," Pelphrey said. "We have tremendous respect for Oklahoma, regardless of what their ranking might be. It's not every day you get a shot at the 4th-ranked team in the country on your home court."


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