Heath Wants Arkansas To Pick Up Intensity

FAYETTEVILLE -- The final stat sheet against Gardner-Webb didn't show anything out of the ordinary for Arkansas based on how the Razorbacks had played through three games winning the Paradise Jam.

Another solid shooting performance, a strong second half, a slew of turnovers forced and another comfortable win, 79-63.

The Razorbacks (4-0) scored 52 points on 70.8 percent shooting in the second half and netted 27 points off 22 Runnin' Bulldog turnovers.

But something was missing when coach Stan Heath reviewed the film.

"The missing ingredient was the energy level and the passion," he said. "That's something we have to have on a consistent basis and it just wasn't there. I really had a sense (the players) felt they didn't play to that level in our last game."

Arkansas will have to pick it up tonight against Tulsa (1-1) for a 7:05 p.m. home tip-off.

Tonight kicks off a three-game stretch for Arkansas against its toughest three nonconference opponents before opening Southeastern Conference play in January.

The Razorbacks host Tulsa tonight and No. 5 Illinois in North Little Rock on Saturday before playing at Missouri a week from tonight.

Tulsa has been a perennial team to be respected with just two losing seasons since 1981 and the Fighting Illini are playing like the best team in the country.

The Hurricane has been led so far by Jarius Glenn, who is averaging 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds in two games. Junior guard Seneca Collins is averaging 16.5 points and 5 rebounds.

The job of guarding the 6-foot-6 Glenn will fall to Arkansas 6-5 small forward Olu Famutimi, who has improved his defense dramatically this season and was injured last year when Glenn went off for 27 points and 11 boards in Arkansas' 81-74 win at Tulsa last year.

"That will be the key matchup we'll try to keep as consistent as possible," Heath said. "Other guys, when Olu comes out, will have to match up. If we have a lot of problems, we may put one of our power forwards on him."

Tulsa coach John Phillips is quite familiar with Arkansas and his Hurricane won the last meeting in Fayetteville 61-60 in 2002 during Heath's first season and Phillips' second.

The Hurricane return plenty of experience from shooting guard to center, but Phillips knows how his freshmen point guards handle Arkansas' press and its largest crowd of the season will be deciding factors in the game.

"The crowd is always an issue," Phillips said. "That's going to be something we have to play through. In the last few years, we've obviously played in some hostile environments, but Arkansas has one of the best and most knowledgeable crowds around.

"They know when to cheer, when to get loud and those type of things. It will be a learning experience for a lot of our young guys."

Heath and his players hope so.

Heath believes he has a fun team to watch and he's encouraged fans to come out and support the Razorbacks in a way they haven't in recent years.

Attendance has declined each year since 1999 and more than 1,000 season tickets are available for the second year after a near 10-year run of consecutive sellouts since the building opened in 1993.

Plenty of tickets all over Bud Walton Arena are available at the box office before games through the season-ticket holder turnback program.

Season-ticket holders can turn back their tickets if they aren't using them and if Arkansas sells the ticket, the amount counts toward their annual contribution.

Neither the players nor the fans really got into it Saturday against Gardner-Webb, but Razorback fans have traditionally shown out against name opponents like Tulsa, Illinois and ranked SEC opponents.

"Hopefully our fans will keep on coming and supporting us," said sophomore captain Ronnie Brewer. "I think we'll have good numbers when we play Tulsa. The fans can help us out and give Tulsa problems calling plays and just be a difficult place to play. I think everyone is ready."

Arkansas is being led in scoring by junior guard Eric Ferguson, who has come off the bench to average 15.8 points in four games after starting 48 of his 56 previous games.

Ferguson is shooting 60 percent (24 of 40) overall and from 3-point range (9 of 15). He's also leading Arkansas in steals and assists with 9 and 15, respectively.

He's playing so well Heath talked to him about returning to the starting lineup, but Ferguson likes his situation.

"I talked to him about changing his role and starting him in the game and he said, 'Coach, I'm comfortable where I am,'" Heath said. "That's a mature sign. We're really pleased with how he's been performing."

Heath may give freshman power forward Charles Thomas his second straight start tonight after he scored 8 points and grabbed 5 rebounds against Gardner-Webb, but he is hesitant to pair him with another freshman, 7-foot center Steven Hill, against Tulsa's experienced frontcourt of Anthony Price and Guilherme Teichmann.

Junior power forward Rashard Sullivan came off the bench Saturday and had a team-high 7 rebounds.

"I'm so nervous putting two freshmen out there together," Heath said. "I've done that over the last two years and those aren't the ingredients you want in your cake."

Heath expects his team to start rebounding better and more consistently than it has so far this season.

Smaller teams from Gardner-Webb and Troy outrebounded Arkansas in the first halves of their games and hung around with second chance shots off long rebounds from a succession of 3-pointers.

Hustling down those long boards must fall to guards like team captains Brewer and Jonathon Modica. Brewer led Arkansas in rebounding last year with 5.5 per game and is getting 3.5 this year.

Modica had no rebounds against GWU and is averaging 9.8 points per game, well off his 16.5 clip last season.

"He's erring more on the cautious side than the aggressive side," Heath said of Modica. "We had a talk and I told him to err on the aggressive side. He plays with a heart and passion and he hasn't seemed to have that right now, but he will.

"He's very competitive. He'll rise to the challenge."

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