Sophomore Rotnei Clarke scored a school-record 51 points while making an SEC and school-record 13 3-pointers and dishing out 5 assists for good measure as the University of Arkansas routed Alcorn State 130-68 in its season opener before 7,713 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"Phenomenal, that's unbelievable," Razorback head coach John Pelphrey said. "In a way, I am not surprised though. We see him shoot so much, work so hard, understand the type of human being he is and he's capable of making shots like that if he gets them…I haven't seen a better shooting performance in terms of coaching or playing. That is really, really remarkable."
Clarke, who was named the top shooter by Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman in a preseason article, was 15-of-21 from the field and 13-of-17 from behind the 3-point arc in a game where had 31 points at halftime and the Razorbacks led 71-26 at intermission.
He was quick to credit his teammates during the postgame press conference for helping him break the school marks of Martin Terry (47 points) and Alex Dillard (12 3-pointers) and also wiping out Jodie Meeks' arena record of 45 points set last season.
"To be honest, I don't really care about any records that I broke," Clarke said. "It was just being able to come out here and just play well as a team and seeing guys unselfishness and celebrating with me and being able to get me the ball. We shared the ball really well and we played unbelievably as a team together and that was the fun thing to be a part of – getting a win like that.
"…I think out of any team that I have played on that was the best team I have ever been on that night," Clarke added. "The way we shared the ball, the way we moved it around and found each other and were unselfish. That was probably one of the best games I have been a part of."
"He (Conley) has helped me up to this point and I felt like I was really shooting the ball well the last couple of nights," Clarke said. "I felt like I had shot it well the last couple of days in practice. It felt really good up to this point."
Junior College transfer Jemal Farmer added 28 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists, freshman Marshawn Powell 17 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks and Michael Washington 14 points for the Razorbacks in the win.
"I just felt good about tonight," Pelphrey said. "I didn't know how long we could compete with being down to the numbers we were at and those other things, but I felt good about tonight until Michael got his second foul with the numbers we were at and those other things.
"I think those guys need to be given a lot of credit," Pelphrey said. "They practiced hard and a lot of those guys were put in wrong positions at this point in their career. For them to come up with that type of effort – well, it's one night and there are a lot of games to be played – but good for them."
Farmer's mind was blown by Clarke's performance.
"I ain't never seen anything like it," Farmer said. "He just couldn't miss. I thought it was crazy."
Starting point guard Julysess Nobles added eight points, nine assists and five steals as Arkansas shot 55 percent and limited Alcorn State to just 29.7 percent.
He helped key a defense that forced 24 turnovers while the Razorbacks were coughing it up just nine times.
Alcorn State head coach Larry Smith – a former NBA star – watched his team fall for the second time this week after losing 100-60 to Ohio State on Tuesday.
"We showed not a whole lot of resistance and they did whatever they wanted to do," Smith said. "The outcome reflects that."
Arkansas led 71-26 at halftime despite having just six scholarship players, a football player and three walk-ons available because of five suspensions.
The Razorbacks did add walk-ons Cody Lay and Chris Roberts in the past couple of days with both playing the final two minutes of the blowout.
"It doesn't take but five guys to play the game," Smith said. "They had a lot of energy, they are athletic and they played well. They played hard and competed. They did all the little things well and the end result is they got a huge win."
Clarke, who was 8 of 9 from the free throw line, hit his first seven 3-pointers in the opening half and had knocked down 9-of-11 treys by the break.
"I think I am doing a better job this year of being on balance quicker," Clarke said. "I set my feet a lot quicker, but I think my release has pretty much stayed the same."
He broke the school scoring record with two free throws at the 10:21 mark that made it 108-45.
His 13th 3-point bomb with 5:33 left in the game boosted it to 120-49.
"It was just fun to be able to share that moment with these guys we have on the team," Clarke said. "We had some adversity coming into the game and we obviously had a lot of people talking about what had happened and we just wanted to come out and play and just show them that we wanted to give the fans something to be excited about."
Pelphrey was stunned it was the first time that an Arkansas player had been over 50 points.
"You are talking about some great, great players, some great, great teams, some great, great coaches," Pelphrey said. "Wow!"
Smith was obviously very impressed with Clarke's effort.
"The way he was shooting the three, I don't see how you can possibly lose him, but he was on fire," Smith said. "We failed to get him covered and the end result was that he set a school record."
Smith, who has nine freshmen on his team, expounded on Clarke's night.
"He was on fire," Smith said. "All of his shots was going in. He wasn't hitting the rim at all. He just felt it tonight. When a guy gets in the zone like that, you have to get him covered. We were unable to do it all year long."
Clarke's big night overshadowed some very impressive efforts from his teammates, including a breakout performance from Farmer, who did not have a single turnover in 33 minutes.
"Tonight, I just wanted to be aggressive and get involved really," Farmer said. "In the two exhibition games I don't think I was aggressive enough so I just wanted to come out and take open shots, move the ball around – the things I am good …I think rebounding, defense and I can score, too."
He admitted to being nervous while playing before the largest crowd in his basketball career – albeit the arena was less than half filled.
"I thought it was crazy," Farmer said. "I was little nervous at first, but I thought we had great fans and I enjoyed it."
Farmer said the Razorbacks are intent on proving they are a better team than what is being projected – the bottom tier of the SEC West.
"I think we are," Farmer said. "I just think we have got to keep coming out to prove people wrong."
Arkansas' level of competition will increase significantly on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. when it plays No. 19 Louisville in St. Louis.
It is the opener of the Hall of Fame Classic with Memphis and Kansas meeting in the nightcap.
"I don't know where it ends up at the end of the day and we look at it three or four months from now, but these guys let you coach and I appreciate that," Pelphrey said. "Good for them tonight."
Rotnei Clarke's 13th 3-pointer of the night set a new school and SEC record for most makes in a single game.
Clarke gets congratulations from his teammates after breaking the records for most points and most 3 -pointers in game in Arkansas history.
Jemal Farmer had 28 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and no turnovers in 33 minutes of action in his first Razorback game.
Marshawn Powell's first college game saw him score 17 points, grab 11 rebounds and block shots.
Powell and Clarke celebrate.