Weems' 31, Townes' double-double help Razorbacks snap 5-game tourney skid

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Arkansas' Darian Townes marveled at the big numbers his teammate racked up. Walking off the podium in jubilant disbelief, he turned first to swingman Sonny Weems and then to coach John Pelphrey.

"You only missed two shots," Townes told Weems before repeating that message to his coach.

Because of Weems' deft scoring touch, and because Townes always seemed to be there to clean up those rare misses, the Razorbacks are sticking around in the NCAA tournament at least a little longer than usual -- and Indiana's turbulent season is over.

Weems scored a career-high 31 points, Townes added 17 points and 12 rebounds and the ninth-seeded Razorbacks beat eighth-seeded Indiana 86-72 on Friday night in the first round of the East Regional.

"When Sonny is hot, he gets everybody going," Townes said.

Weems hit 12 of 14 shots to break out of a slump -- he was a combined 17-for-56 in his previous five games -- for Arkansas (23-11), which shot 54 percent and made 68 percent of its attempts in the second half. The Razorbacks snapped a five-game losing streak in NCAA tournament games dating to a first-round victory against Siena in 1999.

"Those games are behind me," Weems said. "I just kept my confidence. The guards did a great job ... of finding me in the open court, and I just knocked down shots."

The Razorbacks' reward for finally making the second round: a date with No. 1 seed and top-ranked North Carolina on Sunday in a virtual home game for the Tar Heels, playing roughly a 30-minute drive from their Chapel Hill campus.

The schools met twice in the postseason during a three-year period in the 1990s, with North Carolina beating Arkansas in the 1993 regional semifinals on its way to its third NCAA tournament title. Two years later, the Razorbacks knocked the Tar Heels out of the 1995 Final Four before falling to UCLA in the national championship.

"They're a resilient bunch," Pelphrey said of his team. "They've been given up for dead two or three times, and they bounced back. ... The challenge for them is to have some repeat success, in terms of their effort, their focus, their level of play, [because] this is the NCAA tournament and our next opponent is unbelievable.

"So, that's the challenge for these guys," he added. "They've had success a lot of times on a given night, a given day, a given game. We need to do it back to back now."

D.J. White had 22 points in his third straight 20-point game and Armon Bassett snapped out of a slump with 21 points and five 3-pointers for Indiana (25-8).

The Hoosiers lost their tournament opener for the first time since 2001, went one-and-done in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments and ended its once-promising season on a free fall.

Ranked No. 7 as recently as two months ago, Indiana finished the year by losing four of seven since coach Kelvin Sampson's scandal-tainted resignation and former Hoosiers guard Dan Dakich was named interim coach. Now, with a committee starting its nationwide search, the focus at Indiana turns to finding Sampson's permanent replacement.

"I've never seen anything like it. And it's probably not over, to tell you the truth," Dakich said. "The season's over, the games are over. But there are a lot of things that have to occur within Indiana basketball, or a lot of things are going to occur with Indiana basketball that need to occur here in the springtime. It's far from over."

Despite the evidence to the contrary, the Hoosiers insisted there were no lingering distractions down the stretch by the absence of their coach.

"I don't think it really had [anything] to do with it," forward Lance Stemler said. "We've been working hard in practice the last couple of weeks and have been playing good defense. We've been working hard toward this. We really weren't thinking about it. We were focusing on this game. We just couldn't get it done."

Especially Eric Gordon. The Big Ten's freshman of the year and its leading scorer fizzled in his first tournament appearance. He was 3-of-15 shooting, missed all six of his 3-pointers and finished with just six points -- more than 15 below his average.

He capped his first -- and perhaps only -- season in college by going a combined 19-for-63 shooting in his final four games.

"It's been frustrating, it's been tough, because these teams, they wanted to take my drive away," Gordon said. "Having that big 7-foot guy [Steven Hill] in the middle to take away my opportunities to score on the inside. That's what I tried to do. You couldn't really get inside that zone, so you had to figure out other ways to penetrate."

The Razorbacks never trailed after halftime and gave themselves plenty of separation midway through the second half. After Stemler pulled Indiana to 49-47 by hitting a 3 with the shot clock winding down, Arkansas took control.

Hill's dunk started the decisive 12-3 burst, Townes twice stuck back missed 3-pointers for layups, and Weems knocked down a 3 while drifting into the Arkansas bench before his basket with 7:40 left stretched the lead to 61-50.

"I just thought, collectively, they were playing harder than" Indiana was, Bassett said.

Weems surpassed his previous high of 28 points set against South Carolina in January, while Townes finished one point shy of his season high reached four times, most recently last week against Vanderbilt.

"Sunny days when Sonny Weems plays the way he plays," said guard Patrick Beverley, who added 12 points for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas improved to 12-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points.