FAYETTEVILLE – After being up by only three points in the half thanks to a Julysses Nobles buzzer-beater, the Razorback men’s basketball team built up as much as a 20 point lead in the second half to cruise to the 87-74 victory over Texas-Arlington on Friday night at Bud Walton Arena.
With the 13 point win, the Hogs score their 10th win of the season and move to 10-2 on the year, while Texas-Arlington falls to 5-7 and suffers their sixth straight loss. This was also the fifth time that Arkansas has played on New Year’s Eve in its history. With this win, the Hogs are now 5-0 on December 31, with the last win coming in 2004 before tonight.
“We’re very happy to get the win tonight,” said Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. “UTA was very resilient and we had a very difficult time defending them. We shot the ball well from distance again tonight and Marcus Britt was a huge lift for us, especially in the last two games. It was good to see a senior step up and make a big impact like that.”
It took a couple minutes to get anything going from either team in the first half before junior Marvell Waithe scored the first five points for the Hogs, giving them an early 5-2 lead. However, Texas-Arlington was probably the scrappiest team that Arkansas had seen this season as they kept the Razorback lead within six points or less through the first seven minutes of play.
The Mavericks actually took their first lead of the game at the 12:30 mark when they got a jumper by Bryant Smith to make it 13-12, but the Razorbacks would score the next six points and go up by six. During that run the Hogs got its first points out of senior Delvon Johnson and senior Marcus Britt’s second three-ball of the night as the half hit the midway point.
Texas-Arlington would again tie the game up at 19 at the 8:59 mark, the sixth tie of the half, but they would continue that run to go 11-0 over a 2:24 span and pushing their lead up to five, their largest lead of the night. At that point in the game, the Mavericks were on fire from the field, shooting over 50 percent at 11-for-21, while the Hogs were only 38 percent at 8-for-21.
Both teams would continue to trade buckets for the next five minutes, before Texas-Arlington actually got that lead out to eight, but the Razorbacks would spend the remaining 2:47, whittling that lead down and actually tying it back up at 33 with 58 seconds to play in the half after a layup by junior Jeff Peterson. After a made free-throw by both sides, the Hogs found themselves with the final possession of the half. With the clock ticking down, sophomore Julysses Nobles got the pass at the top of the key and made a move to his right before sinking the three-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Razorbacks the 37-34 lead going into the locker room.
It wasn’t the highest scoring half from either side with not one player scoring in double figures through the first 20 minutes of play. Peterson led all scorers with nine points, followed by Britt, Waithe, and Nobles, who tied with six. With not much production from the starting five other than Peterson and Waithe, the Hogs did get 20 of its 37 points from the bench.
In the second half, the Hogs got three quick points by Peterson within the first minute of the half. That lead would eventually swell to 15 after junior Rotnei Clarke scored his first and only points in the game. His jumper at the 14:17 mark would give Arkansas the 58-43 lead.
From there, the Razorbacks would keep their lead above 13 for the remainder of the night, getting increased production in the final 20 minutes from Johnson, who had 10 points and five rebounds in the second half alone. Britt also improved on his first half numbers, scoring 10 more and going 2-for-3 from behind the three-point line. He finished the game with 16 points and 4-of-6 on threes.
Four Razorback players scored in double figures on the night. Along with Britt, who’s point total was a season-high, Peterson and Nobles finished with 15, while Johnson ended with 12. The Mavericks’ Cameron Catlett led all scorers with 17. For the game, Arkansas shot 49 percent, while Texas-Arlington was 27-for-59 from the field at 46 percent.
The Razorbacks next contest will take place in Austin, Texas, when they take on the Texas Longhorns on January 4. The tip for that game is scheduled to go up at 8 p.m. with television coverage from ESPNU. For all information regarding the Razorbacks men’s basketball team, be sure to log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.