Hogs Find Spark against ORU

Don Oglesby takes a look at the Hogs' 77-71 victory over Oral Roberts and the next game against Illinois. Oglesby is a regular poster at our premium message board, the Insiders Board.

Arkansas can take some satisfaction in knowing that, on a night when it played very badly during the first 15 minutes and shot less than 50% of their free throws for the game against a pretty good team it still managed to find a way to win. That way was defense, sparked by Eric Ferguson's 4 steals, most of them at crucial times. On a night when the three-point shots weren't falling the Hogs went inside out and sent the guards, especially Pookie Modica, inside to get their points in the paint.

It was also good to see Ferguson calling out his teammates for lethargic play in the first half. He did it in the right way, but there is no doubt that he wasn't happy with the way his team was performing. Also I can't swear to this, and can't check it as the game wasn't televised, but I think I'm on solid ground in saying the team was probably about plus 15 when Ferguson was on the court and minus 8 when he wasn't. And once again the team played best when both Ferguson and Brewer were on the court together.

Almost unnoticed in the Hogs' balanced scoring was the second half play of Vincent Hunter. Shaking off a sub-par first half defensive effort which saw Coach Stan Heath turning to Rashard Sulivan to try to find someone who would defend the paint, Hunter came back strong down the stretch when the Hogs put it away. He found a hole in the defense for one score, got an offensive rebound stickback for another and beat everybody up court to team with Ferguson and Modica on a fast break that was very big. He also blocked a shot in the short corner at a time when ORU was seeking to tie it up again after cutting a 7-point Arkansas lead to 2.

When the Hogs decided in the second half to get the ball to Modica down low as you might expect some good ball movement by Brewer and Ferguson played a role. But it was Billy Pharis coming out on the high post for several entry passes into Pookie that helped get Pookie off and going in the second half after a 4-point first half. Billy also chipped in 9 points, including a 3, a turn-around jumper and a lefthanded layin off a nice pass from Brewer. Ronnie had another solid game including a couple of nifty moves to get free for short shots on the move.

The Hogs used a four guard offense for some minutes in the second half -- usually with Sullivan the lone big man in the game.

What about Illinois on Saturday in Chicago? If Arkansas plays like it did the first 15 minutes of the game it will get buried. If it plays as it did the rest of the game, but also make 70% or so of their its throws it has a chance of hanging around, I think. The matchups look pretty good, with Ferguson on Brown, Brewer on Williams and Modica on their srtrong small forward. Hunter will probably go against their 6-10 freshman and Pharis will probably draw the seven footer while he is in the game. Don't be surprised, though, to see Weber go to a smaller lineup, especially if the Hogs have any success early on.

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