ORLANDO, Fla. – Arkansas scored just 22 first-half points while shooting 28 percent from the field, but the Razorbacks still led by three and got much hotter in the second half to advance to the championship game of the Old Spice Classic with a 73-64 victory over Marist in Friday’s semifinals.
The Razorbacks, who got a double-double from junior Sonny Weems, face the West Virginia-Western Michigan winner in Sunday’s championship game at 6:30 p.m. The game is nationally televised by ESPN2.
Arkansas (4-0) made just nine-of-32 shots in the first half, but the Razorbacks limited Marist to 32 percent shooting. The Red Foxes got hot in the second half as well, shooting 52 percent (14-27) and turned the ball over just four times, but UA connected on 58 percent of its shots (15-26), made six-of-14 threes (.429) and 15-of-18 free throws (.833).
A three by Will Whittington with 13:35 left pulled Marist into a 35-35 tie, but Darian Townes’ jumper capped a 9-2 run which gave the Hogs a 44-37 lead. A James Smith three pulled the Red Foxes within 47-42, but a Gary Ervin three capped a 12-6 run which gave UA a 59-48 lead with 3:03 to play.
A layup by Smith got the margin to 64-58, but Patrick Beverley made two free throws and a dunk, and Ervin hit a pair of free throws for a 70-58 advantage with 26 seconds to go.
Beverley scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half. He was six-of-six at the line, all in the second period, and also had four rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocked shots.
Ervin finished with 13 points while Weems had 12 points on five-of-10 shooting and a game-high 13 rebounds. The double-double is his second of the year. He had 24 points and 11 rebounds in the home win over Stephen F. Austin on Nov. 18.
Jared Jordan, who led the nation in assists last season, paced Marist with 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Smith, a 7-0 center, finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
The win gives the Hogs a victory over a team returning all five starters from last year for the second straight day. Marist returned its starting unit from last year’s 19-10 club. The Red Foxes are picked to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which is the host of the Old Spice Classic.
In Thursday’s first round, Arkansas got by Southern Illinois, 61-53, in overtime. The Salukis returned all five starters from last year’s 21-11 club which earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
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