Arkansas won its third straight game and got its record back to .500 with a 70-60 win over a solid Southwest Texas State squad Saturday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena before an announced crowd of 9,640.
Kendrick Davis led the way with 22 points as the Razorbacks (4-4) played very well in the first half before grinding out a win in the second 20 minutes over the Bobcats (5-2), who had wins over Houston and New Orleans to the their credit already this season.
"I'm really proud of the effort our guys gave," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "At times it was ugly, but it was a win. What I really liked was that they grinded out a win. I felt in the beginning that weren't focused to play a basketball game, but at some point they just lit up."
The victory kept a pre-game threat from Heath from coming about.
"It was probably the speech that Coach Heath gave us before the game," Davis said. "He told us that if we don't come out and play hard and play good that we weren't going home from Christmas and that he was going to cancel our flight and we were going to have to stay here and practice. We didn't want that."
Heath, who noted he had to be here anyway, said he wasn't messing around.
"I didn't mean that as a threat, but I am on a mission to get our team better and I am not interested in taking steps backward," Heath said.
Davis had 16 of his 22 points in the first half as Arkansas was building up a 36-23 lead to take into intermission.
The Razorbacks got down 6-2 and super frosh Jonathon "Pookie" Modica, who has gotten Arkansas off to fast starts recently, picked up two fouls in the first 30 seconds of the game.
But senior Carl Baker (4 points, 8 rebounds) bounded off the bench and sparked his team on a 10-0 run with four points, four rebounds and a couple of blocks.
That was a part of a 28-6 spree that turned into a 30-12 lead for the Razorbacks with x x left before halftime.
"I certainly didn't think I would be in the game that quick, but I knew at the same time I had to bring the energy that Coach Heath is looking for," Baker said. "I know that you can't let the pace go down and have to try and even push it up even more. It seems like when you play hard, it rubs off and I think that happened today."
Southwest Texas State, coached by Dennis Nutt - the brother of UA football coaches Houston and Danny and Arkansas State basketball coach Dickey Nutt, got down 40-23 early on in the second half before mounting a comeback.
The Bobcats got within 54-49 before Davis buried a 3-pointer and Gomez scored inside to push the home team back up 10.
Arkansas, which shot a sizzling 25-of-33(75.8 percent) from the line on Saturday, hit 8-of-8 free throws and 12 of it's last 14 down the stretch to put the game away.
"We have been working hard at them," Davis said. "We spend like 20 or 30 minutes a day in practice shooting free throws. The hard work is paying off."
Gomez added 16 points and 8 rebounds and Eric Ferguson 14 points, a career-high 7 assists and 6 of Arkansas' 18 turnovers - five of his coming after the break.
Arkansas outrebounded its foe 41-28 while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and holding SWTS to 36.8 percent.
"Arkansas is a very good team," Dennis Nutt said afterwards in a hall full of family and friends. "They played hard and rebounded well. They outrebounded us 41-28 and had 14 offensive boards...Their rebounding is just relentless and that is what got us."
Terry Conerway had 22 points and David Sykes 19 for STWS.
Arkansas will practice Sunday and then take off until Thursday before facing Centenary (5-5) next Saturday night in Bud Walton Arena.
Centenary led Fresno State by 12 on Friday night before falling 70-69 in Fresno.
Arkansas 70, SW Texas State 60
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