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Balanced attack leads Razorbacks

The University of Arkansas men’s basketball team overcame a slow start to soundly defeat Eastern Kentucky 71-57 Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks improve to 7-3 on the season, while the Colonels drop to 7-6.
FAYETTEVILLE, AR – The University of Arkansas men’s basketball team overcame a slow start to soundly defeat Eastern Kentucky 71-57 Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks improve to 7-3 on the season, while the Colonels drop to 7-6.

Arkansas made a season-high 29 free throws while shooting 82.9 percent, 29-for-35, from the line. Three players scored in double figures and eight scored five points or more in a characteristically balanced offensive attack. Defensively the Razorbacks showed their customary pressure, forcing 19 Colonels turnovers.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson credited the defense and the free throw shooting as the keys to his team’s victory.

“Defensively we did a good job,” Anderson said. “I thought our pressure defense took a toll on Eastern Kentucky. We got to the free throw line and we capitalized on it.”

Arkansas started the game shooting 1-of-7 from the field and trailed 9-2 four minutes in, but soon found its stride. The Razorbacks picked up the defensive intensity and got five points from junior Julysses Nobles and two from freshman Devonta Abron to go on a 7-0 run and tie the game 9-9 with 14:41 to play in the half.

The 7-0 spurt was not Arkansas’ best in the half. After Colonels guard Timmy Knipp hit a three-pointer to give Eastern Kentucky a 14-11 lead, the Razorbacks rattled off a 21-4 run over an eight minute span to take a 32-18 lead with 4:33 left in the first half.

Much of that first half run came from the charity stripe, where Arkansas was 17-for-18 in the opening 20 minutes, only three makes off of its previous season-high of 20. Six free throws in the last 1:21 of first half helped the Razorbacks head into the locker room with a 39-30 halftime lead.

Arkansas immediately pushed its lead to start the second half, getting a three-pointer by sophomore Mardracus Wade and a jumper by sophomore Rickey Scott to take a 44-30 lead. The Colonels got a pair of free throws from Mike DiNunno, but Arkansas pushed the tempo again for a 7-0 run to take a 19-point lead, 51-32, with 14:36 to play.

Eastern Kentucky used a 6-0 run to get within 11 points, 61-50, with 4:52 left, but the Razorbacks would not allow the lead to be trimmed to single digits. Michael Sanchez converted a three-point play and Mardracus Wade knocked down two free throws of his own to push the lead back up to 15, 66-51, with 4:03 to play.

“You have to give Eastern Kentucky credit,” Anderson said. “They would not go away. We have to get to a point where we continue to push the lead.”

Wade tallied 13 points to lead the Razorbacks, and shot 7-for-10 from the free throw line. Freshman BJ Young had 12 points and senior Marvell Waithe added 11 on 7-for-8 shooting from the line. Abron energized the team on both ends of the floor, tallying six points with 10 rebounds and two steals.

While Arkansas scored 25 points off of the 19 Eastern Kentucky turnovers, Arkansas kept its turnover number to just 10. The Razorbacks had 12 assists on 18 field goals for the game.

Senior Jaron Jones led Eastern Kentucky with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Arkansas returns to Bud Walton Arena Thursday, Dec. 22 for a 7 p.m. game against Louisiana Tech, its third of seven straight home games.
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