All Heath Wants For Birthday Is Good Effort

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas players may not know the words to "Oh, Lord, It's Hard to be Humble" just yet, but they do know "Happy Birthday."

The Razorbacks gave coach Stan Heath a serenade after practice on his 40th birthday Friday and they can give him another present by getting up for quite possibly the worst team they'll see all season.

Arkansas (7-1) hosts Prairie View A&M (0-6) at 12:35 p.m. today in Bud Walton Arena for its second game in three days after a nine-day layoff for finals.

The Razorbacks didn't look too rusty in their 96-68 blowout win against Tennessee State on Thursday, but Heath was upset enough to get on his players at intermission about getting outrebounded and collecting just two turnovers against the Tigers in the first half.

Arkansas forced 11 second-half turnovers and had an 11-0 rebounding edge in the first eight minutes of the second half to rout the Tigers and start their new tradition of singing and swaying with the student section after home wins.

"That was real nice of those guys," Heath said of his birthday song. "They are a great group of guys. They're fun to be around. I love to coach them.

"That was real nice of them to do that, especially after I chewed on them (Thursday)."

Heath has been able to convince his team to respect most of the teams on its nonconference schedule.

The teams Arkansas played and beat at the Paradise Jam -- Winthrop, Troy and Eastern Michigan -- are well-coached, accustomed to success in their leagues and have all made the NCAA Tournament in recent years.

Gardner-Webb was coming off a 30-point rout of East Carolina and Tennessee State had a group of four transfers from major Division I programs.

Tulsa, No. 1 Illinois and Missouri all commanded attention on name recognition alone.

Not so with Prairie View, whose leading scorer is Phillip Scott at 7.5 points per game.

The Panthers' best game is a 17-point loss to Texas A&M and Tulsa is their most recent loss by a whopping 97-44 on Dec. 12.

"Every nonconference team we face, we take as an SEC team," said sophomore Ronnie Brewer, who had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists against Tennessee State. "We don't want to have any letdowns. You can't look over any other team. They haven't been doing well, but we still have to go out and play Arkansas basketball."

That is exactly what Heath wants to hear, but he knows this will be a game he should be able to get players like senior Mike Jones, junior Jonathon Modica and freshman Marcus Monk more minutes.

Jones is averaging just 2.9 minutes per game, Modica has struggled to find his confidence and Monk is trying to get his basketball conditioning back after leading all Southeastern Conference freshmen in receiving this season.

Heath would also like freshman center Steven Hill to become more offensive-minded during this stretch.

"They should be motivated to play the game, not the team they're playing against," he said. "As I told the guys -- stats, opponents' records, those things don't matter. You have to respect everyone. It appears to be an easy situation, but you never know. Why take a chance?

"The hardest things for people to handle in life, whether you're a player or a regular person, is how you handle success and failure. We've had a little bit of success, but not a lot. We have to make sure we keep working hard to get better."

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