Have Hogs Gotten Wake-Up Call?

ATLANTA - Every year, the Southeastern Conference passes out small gifts to media folks who cover the tournament here.

This time, alarm clocks.

How appropriate for tonight's game.

To make the NCAA Tournament, Arkansas (18-11, 6-10 in the SEC) or Tennessee (13-16, 6-10) must win four games in four days to don the SEC Tournament crown here in the Georgia Dome.

For the Hogs to come close to such thoughts, a wake-up call is in serious order, especially after last weekend's embarrassing 77-64 sleepwalking loss at lowly Auburn.

"Our key is to pull ourselves back up when setbacks arise," said third-year Arkansas coach Stan Heath minutes after Wednesday's workout in the Georgia Dome.

During the hour-long practice, Heath wore red sweat pants, a white polo and all-business look.

In stark contrast to this time last year, when the Hogs were decked out in all-black Billy Jack practice garb, they wore white and khaki practice jerseys and khaki shorts while Heath and company whipped them through the motions of how to attack a zone, a point of emphasis since they have struggled mightily against such defenses the past month.

Attacking a zone, forward Rashard Sullivan missed a dunk, sending the ball some 50 feet overhead.

While Sullivan sheepishly grinned, Heath did not.

"I'm glad everybody saw that," Heath said. "We've got to have that. Two points is valuable."

Matter of fact, that's the margin of the Hogs' home win against Tennessee in the teams' only meeting on Feb. 26.

Tennessee coach Buzz Peterson said he played more zone than he ever had in his life against the Hogs on that day, so much so that his former North Carolina coach (Dean Smith) called to ask why.

Basically, Peterson told him, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Heath and company know what's coming. That's why he was pointing, prodding and teaching from the start to the finish of Wednesday's workout, most of which dealt with attacking the Volunteers' zone.

"Move it! Move it!," Heath ordered. "Don't hold it. You got something, pass it! You don't have anything, pass it!

"Reverse it! Reverse it! Space! Space!

"Play, play, play. Let's go!"

Arkansas' offense got a backdoor to sophomore guard Ronnie Brewer. Brewer finished with a dunk, his hand-slaps on the backboard quite an exclamation point.

"Good job! Good job! Good job," said Heath while clapping.

As the work continued, Heath barked: "Be aggressive! Good! Be aggressive! Good!"

There's a sense of urgency with this group, even though most figure the Hogs are dreaming the impossible dream if they think they can net this tourney.

Do they really believe they can do it?

"I know my players believe it," said Heath, who was practically beaming. "Do they know how to do it all the time? That's a work in progress right now.

"But they believe it. I believe in 'em. I know they can beat anybody in this tournament. I know they can. And I think we've proven that, and we've just come up a little bit short in some games.

"I wouldn't have a smile on my face right now if I didn't feel like the guys are ready to go out and battle, compete and lay it down."

Brewer, who along with senior Michael   Jones have been the only Razorbacks to face the media in the last couple of days, stated the obvious when he said Hogs' backs are against the wall.

"But we have an opportunity to fight our way out of it," Brewer said. "We know we're capable of beating a lot of teams in this conference, but we have to play well.

"If we play bad, we can end up losing to teams we know we should beat."

On Sunday, Jones called a team meeting and, apparently, there was lots of heart-to-heart, emotional chatting.

Before boarding the team plane Tuesday, Heath issued an ultimatum: "If you don't want it, go home."

Said Jones: "I think this team of basketball players, we want it. We really want it so bad.

"I think we're going to turn it around."


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