Hogs Need To Create Own Breaks

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Stan Heath blamed the officials after his team's lost 66-63 at LSU last Wednesday in overtime and earned a reprimand from the Southeastern Conference on Tuesday.

On Monday, he said his team has to find ways to overcome the obstacles of playing on the road and disagreements with officiating.

"We have to create our own breaks," Heath said. "It's one of those deals where we're not going to feel sorry for ourselves or feel that fate is out to get us or God doesn't love us anymore.

"It's got nothing to do with that. We have to create our own breaks. Down the stretch when we have possession, make sure you get a good shot, get a key rebound, don't turn it over.

"Things have a way of balancing out."

After building a 49-44 lead with less than eight minutes to play, Arkansas committed three unforced turnovers in the next four minutes and allowed Glen Davis to tie the score at 56 after grabbing one of his 18 rebounds.

With a chance to break the tie and win the game in the closing seconds, Arkansas did not rotate back on defense after Eric  Ferguson's drive and allowed Davis to hit a streaking Antonio Hudson for the go-ahead basket with 10.8 seconds remaining.

After Mike Jones' final shot of regulation was ruled to be the tying basket instead of the game-winning 3-pointer by official Tom Eades, Arkansas could not make a field goal in overtime and went to the foul line twice with chances to take the lead, failing to convert each time.

Arkansas had similar problems against Alabama in a 64-61 loss Jan. 11 in Fayetteville.

The Razorbacks closed within a point five times in the second half after surrendering a nine-point lead with a seven-minute scoreless stretch, but couldn't get the defensive stands and rebounds it needed to jump ahead.

"I don't think this team is missing anything except we need to get better in late-game situations on how to get the shots we want, get the stops and the key rebounds at critical times," Heath said. "I think we have a good team that needs to learn how to win close games."

After reluctantly playing zone defense for the past two seasons with a lineup alternately short on experience and personnel on the perimeter (in 2003) and in the post (in 2004), Heath played man-to-man nearly exclusively through Arkansas' first 15 games.

After Florida, Alabama and Mississippi State shredded the Razorbacks' man-to-man scheme for easy baskets and dunks out of their halfcourt sets, Heath went to a 3-2 zone to stop the bleeding.

It worked well against Mississippi State after the Bulldogs jumped ahead of Arkansas 21-2 in Starkville on Jan. 15.

MSU didn't score against the 3-2 zone for nearly five minutes and Arkansas crept back to within 10 twice near the end of halftime.

Heath went back to man after halftime and MSU took advantage again with a 12-3 run to keep Arkansas from gaining hope out of intermission.

Arkansas went to the 3-2 zone for most of the game against LSU and held the Tigers to 58 points in regulation and 36.7 percent shooting.

Against Auburn's five-guard lineup, Heath used the 3-2 again to keep his post players from chasing the Tigers' guards all over the floor and out of foul trouble. Arkansas held them to 35.6 percent from the field and committed 11 fouls.

Heath said he doesn't like zone because he feels it takes away from his team's aggressiveness, but Arkansas has scored 48 points off 33 turnovers in its last two games.

"We pretty much go with percentages if a team is having problems with it," Heath said. "It's helping us stay out of foul trouble and taking away the inside game. It's something we'll use.

"The zone is good in a lot of ways, but it probably takes away from some of the aggressiveness."

The zone is a good way to dictate tempo on the road, Heath said, but he would like his team to man up more at home to feed its intensity.

"In the past, that's one reason Coach didn't go to a zone," said sophomore Ronnie Brewer. "He thought we were more passive. Now, we've been trying to pick up the intensity in the zone and make teams take bad shots."

Brewer and Ferguson said they feel they have the ability to play both defenses well and throw opponents off balance by switching up.

Ferguson said better scouting in the SEC means teams know how to attack Arkansas' man-to-man and its press, making the 3-2 zone "real effective."

"We get teams out of what they want to do if we can show them different defenses," Ferguson said.

Street and Smith's recently released a list of the all-time best college basketball programs and according to the formula Arkansas ranks as the eight-best all time.

Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, Indiana and Louisville rank ahead of Arkansas.

Connecticut and Cincinnati follow Arkansas in the top 10.

Points were awarded or deducted based on rankings in 14 categories (Arkansas totals in parentheses).

Among them -- NCAA Tournament appearances (26), NCAA Tournament victories (39), Final Four appearances (6), championship game appearances (2), NCAA titles won (1), NIT championships won (0), conference championships (24), conference tournament championships (6), all-time won-loss percentage (1,403-763, .647), graduation rate, NCAA infractions (2), first-round NBA Draft selections (10) and mascot ferocity.

Arkansas' NCAA Tournament totals all rank ninth-best in the nation. Arkansas' 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 since 1975 -- the first year all teams had to win at least one game to reach the Sweet 16 -- rank 12th-best.

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