FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -With a team loaded with newcomers on the perimeter, Arkansas came into the season figuring to push the tempo and score in bunches.
Defense didn’t figure prominently into the equation. But through eight games, Arkansas has become a team that prides itself on the defensive end. The team continued that trend Tuesday, as the Razorbacks forced 20 turnovers in a 75-59 win over Central Michigan.
Arkansas (7-1) had three players in double digits: Charles Thomas with 14, Sonny Weems with 13 and Steven Hill with 10.
Central Michigan (3-4) has never defeated a Southeastern Conference team. The Chippewas were led by Chris Kellerman’s 14 points and Giordan Watson’s 12.
Arkansas’ full-court press was a twist that caused Central Michigan all kinds of problems.
“We played pretty good defense,” said Weems, who bounced back after struggling against Missouri-Kansas City. “We’ve been practicing our press. We’re trying to get 40 minutes of pressure and tough defense to get ready for the SEC.”
The only team this season to score more than 64 points against the Razorbacks was also Arkansas’ only loss, an 86-64 setback last Thursday on the road against Missouri. Other than that, Arkansas’ defense has been smothering.
“We looked better tonight,” Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. “We fixed some things we struggled with (against UMKC) and had a good start with a lead. We gave up a few things, but we finished plays.
“I think we’re playing really good defense, and if we continue to disrupt and force more turnovers like we’re doing, that’ll make us a better team as the year keeps going.”
Central Michigan coach Ernie Zeigler said he expected Arkansas to target Watson, but that the Razorbacks’ defense was stifling.
“Arkansas was very successful in attacking their game plan,” he said. “Arkansas is a good team and well definitely be an NCAA tournament team.”
Arkansas forced 20 turnovers and limited the Chippewas to 34 percent shooting (18-53). Meanwhile, UA had its best assist-to-turnover ration of the season with 19 assists anda season-low 12 turnovers while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor (24-53).
The Razorbacks are off for semester exams until Dec. 14 when the Razorbacks play host to Oakland University in a 7:05 p.m. game televised by the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network.
Download: central michigan box.pdf