LSU Lineup Presents Challenge

FAYETTEVILLE -- When it comes to defending LSU post tandem of Brandon Bass and Glen Davis, Arkansas coach Stan Heath may have to go to Plan B or Plan Three.

After the 6-foot-9, 310-pound freshman known as "Big Baby" Davis grabbed 18 rebounds -- seven offensive -- in LSU's 66-63 overtime win on Jan. 19 in Baton Rouge, Heath joked he should have assigned three players to box him out.

When Arkansas (16-7, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) hosts LSU (13-7, 6-3) on Saturday, Heath said defending the Tigers will be a "pick your poison" proposition.

"My philosophy has always been, we better have two plans," Heath said. "If one's not working, we better be able to make some adjustments. It's not easy."

Giving too much attention to Davis could free up Bass, the 2004 SEC Freshman of the Year, for a big day and spending too much effort in the post may allow Tiger guards Darrell Mitchell, Tack Minor or Antonio Hudson to knock down open shots.

Keying their defense around slowing down Bass in the first meeting worked to an extent by limiting him to 15 points on 6 of 13 shooting and 8 rebounds, but Davis went off for 26 points, including the tying basket on an offensive rebound with 45 seconds left.

The Razorbacks employed a 3-2 zone throughout the first game and held Minor, Mitchell and Hudson to a combined 7 of 31 shooting.

Heath said Thursday he'll still start the four-guard lineup of freshman center Darian Townes in the middle surrounded by Jonathon  Modica, Olu Famutimi, Eric  Ferguson and Ronnie Brewer.

That means someone -- likely the 6-5 Famutimi -- will have to match up with the 6-8 Bass early on, but Heath said he'll only use the smaller lineup for about eight minutes of the game.

In wins against Ole Miss and Georgia, Heath subbed Modica into the struggling power forward spot where freshman Charles Thomas and junior Rashard Sullivan have failed to stake a claim to the position with their inconsistent play.

Modica responded with 27 points in the last two games but the four-guard offense struggled to execute in the halfcourt setting at times against Georgia.

With that group's size disadvantage in mind, Heath said he will rely on his "huge" lineup of Townes and 7-foot freshman Steven Hill in the game together against Bass and Davis.

Townes led Arkansas in scoring in its last two wins with 19 and 17 against Ole Miss and Georgia.

"We'll have a bigger lineup for about 32 minutes of the game," Heath said. "How we start the game is the big question. We have to find answers at the power forward spot. I'll look at Hill and Townes together for rebounding, defense and some scoring inside, especially from Townes."

Arkansas was outrebounded 42-29 by LSU but has turned a corner in the battle on the boards since then.

The Razorbacks have outrebounded Auburn (36-28), Kentucky (37-30), Ole Miss (32-31) and Georgia (27-25) and lost the rebounding battle by two (38-36) at South Carolina.

Arkansas has gone from one of the worst rebounding teams in conference games to more middle of the pack in its last five games.

The Razorbacks were getting beat on the boards by more than five a game early in the season but have cut their rebounding deficit to minus-2.3 to rank seventh in SEC games.

Arkansas held LSU to 36 percent shooting while hitting 50 percent of its shots in regulation, but the second-chance points by Davis killed the Hogs.

"Rebounding is the No. 1 priority," said Heath, who made a similar challenge to his team before it played Kentucky with positive results in its 68-67 loss Jan. 29. "They got too many extra opportunities with offensive rebounds, mainly by (Davis). We have to give him a lot of attention, but we have to pay attention to a guy across from him on the block that's as good as anyone in our league. We can't do that at the expense of giving Bass his proper attention.

"We keyed in more on Bass and Davis hurt us. Now we have to make some decisions about how we're going to counteract their strength inside."

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