Fayetteville (UofA) - Junior Rotnei Clarke scored the 1,000th point of his Razorback career on Wednesday night as part of his 24 total points to lead the Razorbacks to an 87-59 win over North Carolina A&T at Bud Walton Arena. Clarke is just the 34th player in Razorback history to accomplish the feat. The last Razorback to do it was Mike Washington, who crossed the mark during the 2009-10 season.
The Hogs overcame a sluggish start in the first half which saw the Razorbacks up by only three at the six minute mark in that half, but jumped out to a huge 18 point lead at halftime and and built on that from there. With the win, Arkansas moves to 9-2 on the season while North Carolina A&T falls to 5-7.
"I'm happy to keep the momentum going after the break," said Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. "Our struggles in the first half is a credit to them. I don't like taking 19 three-pointers in the first half, but eight or nine went in and we needed all of them. We have some things we need to work on and we will."
The Razorbacks jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead early in the first half and actually held the Aggies without a bucket nearly four minutes into the game. However, poor shooting from both sides throughout the half kept the score low as the Hogs held a slim 13-7 lead through the first 10 minutes of play. North Carolina A&T, at that time, was only shooting 12 percent from the field, while Arkansas was slightly better at 24 percent.
The latter part of the first half saw the pace picked up from both teams as baskets were traded for the next three minutes. The Aggies cut the lead to three after a free throw by Nic Simpson, but that was as close as they would get for the remainder of the half as the Razorbacks went on a 19-4 run for the final seven minutes and closed the half with a huge 18 point lead. The run was capped by three straight three-pointers by Clarke and senior Marcus Britt to give the Razorbacks the 37-19 advantage as they went into the locker room.
Even with the slow start offensively, the Hogs were not without a defensive presence in the first half as they racked up six steals and six blocks. Four of those blocks came from senior Delvon Johnson, which put him up to 45 for the season. Clarke led all scorers at the half with 13, while Britt followed up with nine of his own to go with three rebounds.
As the second half began, the Hogs picked up right where they left off going on a 4-0 run to add to the run they finished the half with. A three-pointer by Clarke and a layup by freshman Mardracus Wade got the Hog run up to a total of 23-4 over five minutes of game clock.
With the slow start the Razorbacks saw in the first half, the team seemed determined to not let that happen again in the second half as they continued to keep the lead above 20 through the first 10 minutes of play.
At the 18:41 mark, Clarke knocked down a couple of free-throws to leave him only one point away from the 1,000 point mark. Two minutes later, Clarke dropped none other than a three-pointer to go over the mark and become the 34th Razorback to do so. He finished the night with six three-pointers altogether.
That three pointer put the Hogs up 23 and actually started a three-point hot streak that was seen throughout the entire Hogs lineup. As a team, the Razorbacks were 15-33 from behind the three-point line with Clarke and senior Marcus Britt combining for 10 of those threes. The remaining five were split between sophomore Julysses Nobles, junior Marvell Waithe, and freshman Kikko Haydar, who knocked down two in the final four minutes to send Bud Walton Arena into a frenzy. The walk-on from Fayetteville finished with eight points in the game, a season-high.
For the remainder of the second half, the Hog lead never dipped below 15 and finished its highest at 28. It might have been raining three-pointers for the Razorbacks in the second half, but the inside presence of Delvon Johnson did not go unnoticed as he tallied three more blocks to finish with seven in the game. Johnson ended the game with nine points and 13 rebounds to go with it.
The Razorbacks finished with three scorers in doubles figures, Clarke (24), Britt (12), and Waithe (10). While North Carolina A&T ended with their own three players in double figures, Thomas Coleman (16), Marc Hill (16), and Simpson (12).
The men's basketball team has a quick turnaround for their next game as they will take on Texas-Arlington on Friday, December 31 at Bud Walton Arena. Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Also, a reminder for fans, because the game is being played on New Year's Eve, the ticket prices for the upper deck in Bud Walton Arena will be only 11 dollars. For all information regarding the Razorback men's basketball team, be sure to log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.