Heath Wants Attitude Adjustment At Ole Miss

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Stan Heath found what he's looking for from his chronically unsuccessful road Razorbacks in the lyrics to Isaac Hayes' theme from "Shaft."

Heath said Thursday his team needs "a bad mother."

Shut yo' mouth.

No one would mistake the short and very Caucasian Chicago Bulls coach and former Michigan State point guard Scott Skiles for Richard Roundtree's John Shaft.

But the real and fictional tough guys share the same attitude Heath said his team needs to snap out of its road funk and end the Hogs' Southeastern Conference-worst, 13-game losing streak away from Fayetteville today at Ole Miss (12-10, 3-6) in Tad Smith Coliseum.

Heath struggled to put his description of the feisty Skiles into G-rated words after Arkansas (14-7, 2-6) sleepwalked through its 64-52 loss to South Carolina on Wednesday.

Told what a needle does to a finger or the latter half of one of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's most infamous pronouncements about talk-show radio callers weren't acceptable for print, Heath reluctantly offered up something he clearly thought sounded tame.

"How about a bad dude?" Heath said, rolling his eyes after his "bad mother" line earned chuckles. "Now you're going to have all the guys in the city going, 'God, Coach, just say it!'"

A lot more than Heath's street credibility is on the line today, though, and he knows it.

The Razorbacks' lackluster performance Wednesday put them behind the eight ball for their stated goal of making the NCAA Tournament.

The Hogs' timid response to South Carolina in a must-win game for both teams left Heath searching for answers and offering a variety of reasons why Arkansas has failed to play consistent basketball since SEC play began.

"Our team definitely has a winning streak inside them," Heath said. "It's my job to inspire them, to motivate them, to pull it out of them."

Even more disconcerting than the way Arkansas lost in Columbia is Heath's assessment of a team he feels needs a personality transplant 21 games into the season.

As Arkansas tries to win in Oxford for the first time since 1996 against the revenge-minded Rebels who lost 69-46 in Fayetteville on Jan. 5, Heath said someone on his team has to take on Skiles' persona in the perennially uncrackable "Tad Pad."

"He just wanted to stick it to the other team," Heath said. "You need a guy like that who has that type of an attitude and that kind of an edge.

"I'm dying to find that guy."

Unless Arkansas wins today, the Hogs' NCAA hopes may die as well with seven conference games (three on the road) and the SEC Tournament remaining.

"I still plan on going to the NCAA Tournament," said sophomore Ronnie Brewer. "We have to pick our game up and it starts (today)."

Only Brewer (20 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, block in 37 minutes) came to play against South Carolina with Arkansas in a desperate situation.

Brewer already carries the team lead in scoring, rebounding, steals, field goals and free throws.

Now Heath suggested his bone-weary captain needs to take on another role as the team tough guy.

"I'm the first guy to tell you I'm wearing him out," Heath said. "He's earning every penny of that scholarship and then some. I know that. But what am I to do?"

Brewer, who has lacked for help from his teammates often this season, said true grit has to come from everyone.

"You don't necessarily have to have a mean guy," Brewer said. "Your team just has to play with a sense of toughness to get every loose ball, get rebounds."

Other candidates include tenacious defender but recently offensively impaired junior guard Eric  Ferguson and junior captain and former leading scorer Jonathon  Modica.

Ferguson has made 20.4 percent of his shots in the last six games and Modica's confidence -- and minutes -- have seesawed more than Krispy Kreme stock all season as Heath changed his role from starter to reserve.

"There's a lot of things going on with me personally," said Modica, who was 1 of 7 from the field and 1 of 4 from the foul line at South Carolina. "There's some personal things inside me I have to deal with. I have to get my head right, really."

Heath said he no longer has the depth he once had after the losses of senior Mike Jones (groin) and Marcus Monk (shoulder), but neither ever played major minutes for any prolonged stretch this season.

Jones barely cracked the lineup even in blowouts before Heath got desperate for offense at Mississippi State in a 80-55 loss on Jan. 15 and started him in the next three games against LSU (15 points), Auburn (10) and Kentucky (2 before injury).

Monk was a spot-duty defensive player after joining the team in December following an All-SEC freshman football campaign.

Heath even cited the losses of point guard Moe Hargrove, who transferred to Arkansas from Minnesota and back again last summer before ever playing a minute for the Razorbacks, 6-10 forward Vincent Hunter (season-ending shoulder surgery) and former Razorbacks quarterback Matt   Jones, who played a lot of minutes at forward last season and is now trying out for the NFL.

"You never know," Heath said. "Our roster looks so totally different in the summer than it does right now."

Heath said his team is lacking consistent play on offense from the point guard position, especially with junior college transfer Dontell Jefferson nearing bust status after failing to contribute since SEC play began.

He also named the power forward position, where he's tried Charles Thomas, Sullivan, Darian Townes, Jones and Monk, as another area lacking in consistency.

Arkansas' poor shooting and heavy minutes for Ferguson and Brewer have taken away much of the Razorbacks' fullcourt pressure and transition baskets.

Although Heath came up with a few ideas on who could give his team the attitude adjustment it badly needs on the road, he didn't sound very sure of himself.

"I don't know," he said, pulling at his face with both hands. "I don't know.

"I don't know."

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