for this game

Weems' career night sends Indiana packing

Mar 22, 2008 - 6:10 AM
RALEIGH, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Sonny Weems made sure to bring Indiana's tumultuous season to an end.

Weems scored a career-high 31 points for ninth-seeded Arkansas en route to an 86-72 win over the eighth-seeded Hoosiers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament's East Regional on Friday.

Weems went 12-of-14 from the field for Arkansas (23-11), which shot 54 percent (26-for-48) and snapped a five-game losing streak in NCAA Tournament games dating to a first-round victory over Siena in 1999.

"It means a lot, you know, when Sonny is hot, he gets everybody going," said Razorbacks forward Darian Townes, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. "It was real great for Sonny to come out real strong.

"He had a little slump in the SEC tournament but he got over that. He worked on his shots over the little break we had and he just came out on fire. He played a great game tonight."

Allegations of recruiting violations, a midseason coaching change and a threatened player boycott signaled the beginning of the end for Indiana (25-8), which was 22-4 at one point this season but dropped four of its final seven contests. The Hoosiers also endured three player suspensions during the year.

"We lost a lot of games down the stretch and we lost this last game," Gordon said. "It's been real tough for us and we just weren't able to get it done."

The Razorbacks' win sets up a second-round clash with top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday.

"They (the Tar Heels) are unbelievable," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "They play the game the right way. They don't turn it over a lot. They share the ball. They are a team (with) tremendous depth. (They play) as fast as anybody will play, make or miss."

Due in large part to their tough zone defense, the Razorbacks frustrated standout freshman Eric Gordon all game long. The Big Ten's leading scorer was held to just eight points on a dreadful 3-for-15 shooting.

"The game plan was to get some zone into the game as we do all games, but what I didn't plan on was almost our whole team getting in foul trouble almost immediately," Pelphrey said.

"Our guard depth basically left us (due to foul trouble and an injury to Stefan Walsh) and I was forced to kind of manufacture things a little bit. Fortunately for us, it worked out. We started playing the two bigs together and they were able to get some stops and some rebounds."

Despite getting just two points on 1-for-7 shooting from Gordon in the first half, Indiana only trailed Arkansas, 37-30, at intermission.

"Eric Gordon - we just felt like - tremendous scorer, deep, deep range, whoever had the assignment of playing him, we wanted to stay on him and take away his 3-point shot," Pelphrey said. "Everyone else's job was to try to get their numbers squared up with his numbers and make him a passer."

With Gordon rendered ineffective, D.J. White tried to carry the Hoosiers, scoring the first six points of the second half to get his team to within four points at 40-36.

The Razorbacks responded with five consecutive points but Armon Bassett started his second-half 3-point barrage with two shots from the arc within 35 seconds of each other to trim the lead to 45-42 at the 15:03 mark.

After Indiana and Arkansas exchanged baskets, Lance Stemler followed a layup from Weems with his third 3-pointer of the game to bring Indiana to within 49-47 with 12:30 remaining.

However, the Hoosiers could find no answer for Weems, who caught fire with 10 of his 18 second-half points during a 23-13 stretch that catapulted Arkansas into a 72-60 advantage with 3:24 left in the game.

"Sunny days when Sonny plays the way he can play," joked Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley when asked about Weems. "He's been doing a real good job of leading this team down the stretch here. You know, you really can't say anything about it, he's been playing well the whole year, so this is nothing new to us."

Bassett buried the final one of his five second-half 3-pointers to cut the Razorbacks' advantage to single digits but Arkansas - the seventh-best free-throw shooting team in the Southeastern Conference - hit 13-of-16 from the foul line over the final 2:08 to secure the victory.

White had 22 points and nine rebounds in his final college game while Bassett added 21 for the Hoosiers, who lost in the first round of the tournament for the first time since 2001.

In what may have also been Gordon's final game as a collegian, he remained non-committal in regard to turning pro after one season.

"Indiana's a great university and I don't know," Gordon said. "This is a great team that I play for and I've just got to see what happens. I'm real close to this coaching staff, so I'm going to talk to them (and) talk to my family. It's a great opportunity that this team has in the future."