Hogs, Tigers Renew Spirited Rivalry

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas All-America candidate Ronnie Brewer says the Missouri-Arkansas basketball rivalry is getting pretty good.

Never mind that the series is tied 17-17 overall and 8-8 in Fayetteville.

"We've got Steven Hill from Branson, Mo., and I don't think Missouri's fans like him too much because he chose to come here," Brewer said.

Arkansas (4-2) nicked the Tigers 62-52 at Mizzou Arena last season. Missouri (2-1) aims to return the favor in Bud Walton Arena tonight, although Mizzou coach Quin Snyder said that would be a big upset.

"That's what I said last year -- to myself," said Hogs coach Stan Heath. "(Snyder) could be posturing. Or he could mean it. If we play like we did against Radford, we'll get beat. If we play like we did against Kansas, we've got a good chance."

Brewer said Hill's two biggest games at Arkansas so far were the one at Missouri last season and the Hogs' 65-64 win over Kansas in Maui last week -- the latter because Hill chose Arkansas over Kansas, too.

Hill, a 7-foot center who blocks everything but the sun, smiled when he recalled Arkansas' win at Columbia, Mo.

"All my friends from high school went to Missouri," he said. "Well, a few came to Arkansas. I don't really remember their fans saying that much last year, but it will be good to play Missouri at home. It was fun here Wednesday night (against Southern Miss) with our students and our crowd."

Heath hopes more than the 10,103 who attended Wednesday will show up tonight.

"Hopefully our fans will come out and give us a lot of support," Heath said,. "We'll need it. Missouri is anxious to pull off the upset and we'll both be competitive to go after each other."

The Tigers went 16-17 last season and lost their opener to Sam Houston State this season before defeating Northwestern (La.) State and Missouri-Kansas City.

Against UMKC, Tigers guard Jason Horton helped hold Quinton Day, a transfer from Southern California, to seven points -- 20.5 under his average -- on 2-of-14 shooting.

"I was really happy with our defensive pressure, and Jason's play on the perimeter," Snyder said. "But Arkansas is big, long and athletic."

Snyder recalled the Hogs altering some Mizzou mid-range jumpers last year because of their size and reach.

Hill, though averaging just 3.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, has been a huge presence for Arkansas in ways that don't show up on any stat sheet.

"Stats don't measure Steven's effectiveness," Heath said. "We don't keep track of altered shots, but we probably should. I thought he was pretty special Wednesday night. He gives us a toughness factor around the basket that we didn't have previously."

Hill and the Hogs will have to go some to contain 6-foot-5 Tigers junior guard Thomas Gardner, who's averaging 21.7 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Gardner should be a good match for the 6-7 Brewer, who averages 20.5 points and 3.7 steals.

Now that Brewer has made a halftime buzzer-beater (against Southern Miss), he has more standing in his own home. Well, sort of.

"My brother, Kenny, called it a luck shot," Brewer said Thursday. "But my dad said, 'Oh, no, he knew what he was doing.' You can't practice shots like that. I just held my follow-through, and it looked good."

Brewer's dad, Ron Brewer, specialized in last-second game-winners for Arkansas from 1976-78.

"He said he used to make them all the time," Ronnie Brewer said, grinning. "If I made one for Fayetteville High, he'd say, 'You get to put one on your resume.' Wednesday night, he said, 'You'll catch up with me someday.'"

Heath said Brewer's 23-footer against Southern Miss could prove meaningful this season.

"That can be something to build on for us," Heath said. "We tried those plays other times this season but didn't complete them. Ronnie's shot was a momentum play. We work on those situations every day in practice."

Heath said 6-7 Missouri forward Marshall Brown (13.7 ppg) is very versatile and could cause matchup problems for the Hogs, who will again likely start both 6-10 Darian Townes and 7-foot Hill inside.

Heath liked the way UA forwards Charles Thomas and Vincent Hunter played off the bench against Southern Miss, combining for 19 points.

"How much both teams go to their bench could be a big factor in this game," Heath said.

Nine of Mizzou's players are in their first or second year in the program. Gone is big man Linas Kleiza, who led the Tigers with 16.1 points and 7.6 rebounds last season.

"Kleiza was a very difficult matchup," Heath said.

Expect both teams to play fast at times, and sprinkle in some zone defense -- which both struggled against last season.

"Last year Missouri was our first real test," Brewer said. "This year I think Maui prepared us for anybody. We faced Connecticut -- maybe the best team in the country."

The Tigers likely benefited from going against a Sam Houston State forward who made six 3-point shots, and a Princeton-style Sam Houston offense, with lots of backdoor cuts.

"It toughened us defensively," Snyder said.

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