The wig party was alive and well in Bud Walton Arena Thursday night.
As part of a student-inspired marketing plan, the first 400 students into Arkansas' game with Alabama received complimentary dread-lock wigs with Razorback headbands – no doubt a tribute to Arkansas freshman point guard Courtney Fortson.
"I noticed it," Fortson said after the game. "They told me before it happened they were going to have Courtney Fortson night when Alabama came in.
"I think it matched perfectly with the headband and the dreads, and all. The fans looked good tonight – better than they usually do."
When the Montgomery, Ala., native came on the floor for pre-game shoot around he went straight to the student section and thanked them.
"You could tell he was excited and he liked the idea," UA senior Kendal Brown said. "He was smiling…I think he was fired up."
And that pregame intensity sparked arguably his best game of the Southeastern Conference season, scoring eight points and recording nine assists, three steals and just three turnovers in the team's first win since Jan. 6.
"I didn't force a lot of passes like I'd been doing when we were on the losing streak," Fortson said. "I found my teammates for easy transition baskets.
"If we can keep it up it's going to be a good season."
With the success, everyone wanted to look like the two-time SEC Freshman of the Week. ESPN announcers Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes even donned the wigs for a few minutes and Arkansas coach John Pelphrey needed a double-take when looking for his family after the game.
"After I shook the last hand, I looked up at my wife to make sure she was there and she had one on," Pelphrey said. "I thought that was pretty funny."
Students had been asked earlier in the season for ideas on marketing strategies, UA student Steve Sparks said.
"They've been asking for our input and we told them we'd like to be a little more interactive, so they came up with this," Sparks said. "We didn't know they were doing this until we came through the door tonight."
Sparks said other influences included pick-up games and special entertainment at halftime.
The estimated attendance of 14,157 was comprised of more students than usual. With several no-shows resulting from the area's ice storm this week, UA students were let in free of charge.
"It looked like every student seat was filled," Pelphrey said. "Just the enthusiasm, we really appreciate that."
The Fortson wigs won't be the last marketing campaign of the season, Sparks said, adding the school had told him it would be giving out "40 Minutes of Pel" T-shirts at the Razorbacks' next home game against Tennessee, Feb. 4.
As for the wigs, they're great, Brown said, but noted he wouldn't be growing his hair out any time soon.
"They're a little bit itchy," Brown said. "I don't know if I could handle this. They're nice for one night, though."
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