Heath Says Hogs Not In Disarray

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath objected Tuesday to the notion that his team is in disarray.

"That's irresponsible and a lie," Heath said. "I don't think that at all."

The Razorbacks' team chemistry had come into question, in print and on talk shows, since a 77-64 loss at Auburn on Saturday.

"That's an absolute joke," Heath said. "It's not true and it's an insult to our program. I don't think we dogged it (at Auburn). We just didn't play with emotion. Other teams have lost at Auburn. Mississippi State lost worse than we did."

Heath said he would be "pissed off" at any suggestion that the Razorbacks laid down against Auburn.

"I would be, and I'm sure the players are," Heath said. "They're a little sensitive, or upset that that characterization would be tagged to them."

In fact, Arkansas players and coaches had a team meeting on Sunday night, after which they had a good practice, Heath said.

The Razorbacks (18-11, 6-10 in Southeastern Conference play) meet Tennessee (13-16, 6-10) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the SEC Tournament at Atlanta, Ga.

"This is our last chance to get to the NCAA Tournament," Heath said. "We've talked about it and the guys know it. I really think we're going to play well Thursday. We laid an egg in our last game, but that's over."

UA senior Michael   Jones said he talked with Heath and initiated the team meeting.

"It was just about things that were bothering us," Jones said. "We got a lot of things off our chest. It's obvious we haven't been playing our best basketball."

Hogs sophomore guard Ronnie Brewer said, "I think we had a positive feeling (after the meeting). Everyone was on the same page. I think we can play with any team in the conference if we play together as a team and play hard."

Brewer said the Razorbacks need to execute their offense better and not rush things when they get into a scoring lull.

"I think we've been passive against a zone," he added. "I need to be more aggressive in attacking the zone."

Brewer also said, "I thought we had more pride than we showed against Auburn. I didn't think we fought throughout the game. You have to take it personally. If you don't fight, there's no reason to play. There's a name on the front and the back of our jersey."

Jones said he recorded the 2000 SEC Tournament when Arkansas came from nowhere to win, and he's watched those games this week.

"That team had a swagger," Jones said. "They were happy and excited on the court. It was like, 'Y'all are in trouble for 40 minutes.'"

Jones was asked the difference between Sunday's team meeting and another one at Oxford, Miss., this season which resulted in a three-game Hogs winning streak.

"Last time it was like we straightened up our room and it looked pretty neat," Jones said. "But it wasn't neat."

Heath said Jones felt that if Jones talked at the meeting, other players might open up.

"I think it went very well," Heath said. "Everybody has to make sacrifices for the team and put individual things aside. We have to keep working and trust ourselves."

Heath listed three ways in which Arkansas can combat its scoring droughts.

"One, we need to find a way to get to the free throw line," he said. "Two, let our scorers have opportunities to make plays. And three, don't get down. Let's fight through it."

Heath was asked to elaborate on comments he had made about UA junior captain Jonathon  Modica, relating to the team concept.

"I put a lot of value in effort in practice, good chemistry on the court and consistency," Heath said. "We've got to find a balance -- you can't play offense and then defense like football. Against a zone we need more offensive punch. We got off to a decent start at Auburn, but our (lack of) defense and turnovers allowed Auburn to stay with us more than I'd like."

Heath said he hadn't decided on a starter at power forward against Tennessee, but that Charles Thomas played well against the Vols last time, when Arkansas shot 47 percent from the field and 47 percent from 3-point range in a 70-68 win in Bud Walton Arena.

"All of our focus is on Tennessee," Heath said. "It would be a big stepping-stone for us. We've had more wins and more conference wins this season and now we'd like to win in the SEC Tournament. We haven't done that in a long time."

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