Thurman impressed with UA, Fortson

Former UA star Scotty Thurman hadn't seen Arkansas in-person before Saturday. He came away impressed with what he saw.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK – Former Arkansas star Scotty Thurman saw his fair share of success in a Razorback uniform – winning a national championship in 1994 and finishing runner-up a year later.

With as much hype at this point in the season as any since the championship years, the school's 10th-leading scorer all-time is complimentary of this year's team.

"It's one of the more fast-paced teams we've had in the last few years," Thurman said. "I've been especially excited and impressed with the way they've played."

Thurman was in attendance at Alltel Arena Saturday, watching the Razorbacks in-person for the first time this season. He said he wasn't surprised Arkansas had a tough time with the Mean Green – an 86-75 win.

"I thought they played well," Thurman said. "What's going on now is what I expected – a little bit of a letdown after a big win, especially with a young team."

Thurman, who resides in central Arkansas, will be one of the players returning to Bud Walton Arena March 1 for the championship reunion. Like many of his former teammates, Thurman said he has felt a little disconnected from the school, but relishes every opportunity to watch the team.

"I haven't been to as many games as I would have liked to," Thurman said. "I've come to all the games when they come (to Alltel Arena) and I've been to a few in Fayetteville.

"I'm looking very forward to the reunion. Some of the guys I played with are going to have an opportunity to come back and celebrate what we accomplished. Some of those guys that don't live in Arkansas, I think they'll be especially excited about it."

Free throw woes

Courtney Fortson's struggles from the charity stripe continued in Saturday's win as the freshman hit 2-of-8 from the line.

"I've just got to work on it," Fortson said. "That's the bottom line. It's unacceptable free throw shooting by me."

Fortson is shooting at a 55.5 percent clip from the free throw line on the season, hitting just 45-of-81 attempts.

While Fortson struggled, Michael Washington had one of his best games from the line this season, hitting 10-of-12 en route to 34 points. The junior entered the game hitting 59 percent in that department.

"Michael Washington was obviously great," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "He needs to be commended for stepping to the line and hitting his free throws today."

Big assist

Even with his struggles from the line, Fortson finished Saturday's win with 12 points and nine assists. The freshman is leading the Southeastern Conference in assists per game and is well-ahead of the single season school-record set by Kareem Reid.

"We have a point guard that can get anybody a shot at any given time as well as finish with contact or knock down open shots," Arkansas guard Stefan Welsh said.

Reid's record of 6.6 assists per game was set in his freshman season in 1995-96. Fortson is averaging 7.3 assists per game this season.

His floor leadership is drawing comparisons to Arkansas great Corey Beck. Thurman, who played with Beck for three seasons, said the comparison is warranted.

"I see it as far as the importance they mean to their team," Thurman said. "Courtney is definitely one of those guys that when he's not in the game there is a little bit of standing around, but when he's in there, they're constantly moving. He's not as vocal as Corey, but he's probably more athletically gifted."

Fortson's increased success has come with a decrease in turnovers. In the first five games of the season, Fortson had an assist-turnover ratio of 23 to 23, but in Arkansas' last seven games, he has 64 assists to 25 turnovers.

Fortson has three double-digit assist efforts this season.

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