FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In their most complete performance of the season, the Arkansas Razorbacks closed the non-conference portion of their season by jumping on North Texas early on Saturday and never let up in rolling to a 96-61 victory.
Ty Thomas gave the Mean Green a 3-0 lead with a three-pointer on the game’s first possession, but it was all Hogs after that as Arkansas improved to 8-3 heading into Tuesday’s Southeastern Conference opener against LSU at home in an 8:05 p.m. contest televised nationally by ESPN.
On Saturday, UA scored the most points its scored in a first half (46) and in a game during the Stan Heath era, and the Razorbacks shot 47.9 percent while holding UNT to 39.3 percent and forced 23 turnovers, but the most impressive statistic was 23 Arkansas assists with just three turnovers.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Heath said. “Turnovers have been a sore spot for us. It’s great that we can share like we did but hold onto the ball. The more possessions that we have, the more opportunities for our offense.”
All 14 Razorbacks scored, including forward Matt Jones, who just joined the team on Friday after completing football season with Wednesday’s 27-14 win over Missouri in the Independence Bowl.
Following Thomas’ three, Rashard Sullivan scored six of UA’s first eight points and Jonathon Modica made a layup for a quick 10-5 lead. UA pushed it to 29-9 on a Billy Pharis tip-in and a layup by Ronnie Brewer before North Texas made its one run of the game.
The Mean Green cut the 20-point margin to 31-23 and stayed within 13 until the Razorbacks closed the half with a 7-2 run on two dunks by Brewer and a three by Modica for a 46-29 edge at the break.
“I give all the credit to our players,” Heath said. “They played with lots of energy and effort. They came ready to play. It’s like a new group of guys. They are playing with confidence and playing together. The thing is that they’re having fun playing.”
UA opened the second half with a 12-4 run and took a 58-33 lead on a Brewer three with 17:01 remaining. UNT never got closer than 23 and the Hogs gradually pulled away for the final margin.
Brewer finished with 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Modica had 13 points. Pharis had 12 points, and team highs of six rebounds and three blocked shots. Ferguson had 11 points, eight assists with just one turnover, four steals and three rebounds.
Jerome Rogers and Leonard Hopkins led UNT with 12 points each.