Hogs Glad For Second Chance

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas hasn't wanted a rematch this bad since Reconstruction.

The latest chapter in what has become a heated rivalry since John Brady took over the LSU program in 1997 was written 24 days ago in Baton Rouge when Arkansas senior Mike Jones' last-second shot in regulation was ruled a game-tying 2-pointer rather than a game-winning 3 as it was posted on the scoreboard when time expired.

Arkansas went on to lose 66-63 in overtime on Jan. 19 and Razorbacks coach Stan Heath was publicly reprimanded by the Southeastern Conference for accusing the officials of compromising the integrity of the game by not giving Jones three points because he traveled to get his foot behind the line.

"LSU didn't have anything to do with that," said Heath, whose Razorbacks (16-7, 4-6 Southeastern Conference) host the Tigers (13-7, 6-3) at 2:05 p.m. today.

"It still heightens the intensity of the game. Both teams are going to be inspired to play. It's going to be a tremendous atmosphere and my team will feed well off that positive energy in the building."

Whether it was lead official Tom Eades or the Tigers who took away the win last month, the wars between LSU and Arkansas have been anything but civil dating to the Tigers' 96-75 home win in 2000 when Brady said Arkansas was holding the ball in the closing moments to keep his team from scoring 100.

Then-Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson responded by calling Brady a "fly-by-night coach" and got his revenge by beating the Tigers 69-67 in the SEC Tournament en route to capturing his first SEC Tourney title to snag the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The rivalry started heating up for Heath in his first season when his understaffed team beat LSU in Fayetteville but then got smacked down 75-56 in Baton Rouge.

LSU senior Ronald Dupree scored 25 points to lead the humiliation and Heath took issue with the taunting directed by the Tiger players at his team and pointed a barb at Brady.

"There are class programs and there are class teams and that speaks for itself," Heath said after the game. "They can perform or do whatever they want. That's their prerogative.

"That's not the way I'm going to coach my team."

The Hogs had another run-in with Brady at the 2003 SEC Tourney that same season when the Tigers were in the midst of a first-round, 85-56 mauling of the Razorbacks.

Brady took issue with the hard play of then-Arkansas freshman Eric  Ferguson, who responded with a two-word response to Brady that will universally earn an ejection and resulted in an early shower for Ferguson.

Ferguson and Brady buried the hatchet after LSU's 66-55 win in Fayetteville last season and Brady and Heath may have done so as well after he called the Arkansas skipper to tell him how much he appreciated Ferguson's uninitiated apology.

"I don't dislike LSU," said Arkansas junior Jonathon  Modica. "I don't have anything personal against LSU, you know. When we get on the court with them, I'm trying to beat them. I'm trying to win.

"Under the circumstances the last couple years dealing with LSU, I think it gives us more motivation for this game."

Whether or not the Hogs and their coach have shed their ill-will toward him, Brady has worked his way under the skin of Arkansas fans over the years and his team's five-game winning streak against the Razorbacks hasn't helped matters.

Brady, who has won two of his last three in Fayetteville, easily qualifies as the most-hated coach for Razorback fans in the SEC and just behind Memphis coach John Calipari overall.

An emotional, hand-wringing, foot-stomping coach, Brady has enjoyed the barrage from Arkansas fans in Bud Walton Arena and the success of his team in Fayetteville after former LSU coach Dale Brown never won here.

"It's a lot of fun to play there," Brady said. "They have great fan support. Their fans know when to cheer, which is damn near all the time.

"It's a good place to play."

In spite of LSU's larger-than-life frontcourt of 6-8 sophomore Brandon Bass (17.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and 6-9, 310-pound freshman Glen "Big Baby" Davis (14.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg in SEC play), Arkansas will start the same four-guard lineup of Modica, Ronnie Brewer, Olu Famutimi, Ferguson and freshman center Darian Townes today.

Inserting Modica back into the starting lineup has sparked his game with 27 points against Ole Miss and Georgia and Heath doesn't plan on returning him to the bench.

Famutimi has struggled with just a point in his last two games, but Heath won't sit him, either.

"I don't see myself bringing Brewer off the bench," Heath said. "I don't see myself bringing Famutimi off the bench. I don't see myself bringing Townes off the bench. Those are our best five and those are the guys playing the best right now.

"It's important to them and I'm not going to fight it. I've got enough battles to fight right now, so we have to use the speed and quickness to our advantage."

Zone defense was key to holding LSU to 36 percent shooting in the first game, but Davis scored 26 points and corralled 18 rebounds to help the Tigers to a 42-29 rebounding edge.

Heath said the four-guard lineup will probably only play about eight minutes today and a big lineup of Townes alongside 7-foot freshman Steven Hill will come into play.

Keeping Davis off the block without the ball and when shots go up or getting him in foul trouble are the Hogs' best hopes for slowing him down.

Production offensively, defensively and on the boards has to start coming back from struggling power forwards Rashard Sullivan and Charles Thomas.

Arkansas has won the rebounding battle in four of its five games since then and the Razorbacks will have to find a way to keep the glass totals close to even today.

The Razorbacks assured themselves their first winning season since 2001 with their win against Georgia on Wednesday, but making the NCAA Tournament hinges on winning out at home and stealing at least one on the road next week from either Alabama or Vanderbilt.

"It's a personal game for all the players," Townes said. "(LSU) kind of stole one from us. We have to have the mindset that we have to get this game.

"We know it's going to be a rebounding game. It's going to be a tough match inside. It's not going to be anything easy."

Rematches never are.

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