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Feb 21, 2004

Box Score

AP Sports Writer

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas coach Stan Heath turned to his bench to help snap a four-game losing streak.

He inserted little-used Wenbos Mukubu in the starting lineup for leading scorer Jonathon Modica against No. 25 South Carolina on Saturday and the move helped the Razorbacks to an 82-66 victory.

Modica and Kendrick Davis combined for 36 points, leading Arkansas’ bench, which scored half its points, while Mukubu’s energy sparked an early lead the Razorbacks (12-12, 4-9 Southeastern Conference) never relinquished.

“I was looking for a combination that would give us some chemistry and a defensive edge, especially at the start of the game.” Heath said. “I was shuffling around lineups and that lineup in Thursday and Friday’s practice had a tremendous amount of energy.”

Davis had been lost on the bench in the previous six games, scoring a total of 16 points while averaging 7.3 minutes. He tied a season-high with 19 points in 30 minutes.

“The points were good, but I was just trying to focus on my defense,” Davis said. “It’s frustrating (on the bench), but you just have to keep believing and have faith. Wenbos came in and gave us a good spark and he was there late, too. Coach told us he was going to start using the bench more.”

The Razorbacks kept alive their outside chance of earning a bid to the NIT by holding South Carolina (20-6, 7-5) to 40.4 percent shooting and by turning in the best shooting performance against the Gamecocks this season.

South Carolina entered the game with the best defense in the SEC, and it forced 18 turnovers, but Arkansas also forced 18 turnovers that led to 19 points.

Arkansas’ 82 points is the most allowed in regulation by the Gamecocks, who entered the game holding teams to 37.3 percent shooting. However, the Razorbacks made 49.1 percent, including 65.4 in the second half.

“It was the worst we’ve played all year, but you have to give Arkansas credit,” South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. “They made us play that way. When you make mistakes early, you have to adjust and we didn’t.”

Arkansas was 22-of-24 from the free throw line, including 7-of-8 from Modica.

Ronnie Brewer was Arkansas’ best starter, scoring 17 points, with five rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocked shots.

“I thought he was a factor in every aspect,” Odom said. “He’s one you have to allow for.”

Tre Kelley had 18 points for South Carolina, including 12 in the second half when the Gamecocks cut the lead to six on six occasions in the last 5:28 but could get no closer.

“We looked like a team that had nothing to play for and they looked like a team that had something to play for, everything to play for,” Kelley said.

Josh Gonner of the Gamecocks hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 34-28 in the first minute of the second half, but Arkansas then pushed the lead to nine points on the next three possessions.

South Carolina responded to the first two with 3-pointers from Tarence Kinsey and Mike Boynton Jr., and the Gamecocks made it 45-40 when Renaldo Balkman made a free throw after being fouled on a layup.

An 8-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Davis and two free throws by Brewer, finally gave the Razorbacks a 10-point lead with 11:13 remaining. Davis, who matched the season high he had against Jacksonville on Nov. 29, extended the lead to 53-40 with another 3-pointer.

South Carolina’s best chance to cut the lead under six came when Boynton’s 3-point attempt with 5 minutes remaining rimmed out.

Aside from a turnover that led to Boynton’s attempt, Arkansas answered South Carolina every time it cut the lead to six. Modica, who only had four points in the first half, scored twice just before the shot clock expired.

Brewer helped seal the game with a dunk with 1:08 remaining for a 72-64 lead. Matt Jones hit him with a fullcourt pass on an inbounds play for the dunk and Brewer added another dunk as South Carolina missed six straight shots in the final minute.

After Kelley cut the lead to 70-64 with a 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining, the Gamecocks didn’t make another shot until Carlos Powell’s putback after a missed free throw in the final seconds.

Making just his second start of the season, Mukubu scored Arkansas’ first four points, doubling his total in SEC games and giving Arkansas a lead to start a game for the first time since before the four-game losing streak. He finished with six points and three rebounds and his hustle helped the Razorbacks build a 32-25 halftime lead.