Hogs Gear Up for Bears' 3-Pointers

FAYETTEVILLE -- Stan Heath spent part of his time the past three days watching the 11th Annual Holiday Hoops Tournament and another part preparing for Arkansas' next game against Missouri State on Thursday night.

"Missouri State is as good as any nonconference team we'll face outside of the Maui Invitational," Heath said. "They're an excellent 3-point shooting team."

Coach Barry Hinson's Bears went 19-13 last season, including an NIT appearance. At any point of a game, they have at least four players capable of draining a 3-pointer, Heath said.

Thus the Razorbacks (6-2) have been working on sustaining their defense through an entire possession and not breaking down in the final 10 seconds.

Both Missouri (9-of-18 threes) and Texas State (12-of-19) played Arkansas close in Bud Walton Arena, partly by staying patient enough on offense to work for 3-point shots.

Whether the Hogs like it or not, they can expect to see other teams use that blueprint for awhile.

"Obviously our transition game is very strong and people want to take that away from us," Heath said. "Slowing it down gives them the best chance."

Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas' 6-foot-7 junior guard, is averaging 20.6 points and 3.3 steals per game and would surely have even gaudier stats in a faster-paced style. But Brewer is being very conscious of getting his teammates more involved as they all continue to absorb the motion offense.

Ron Brewer, Ronnie's dad and a former All-America guard at Arkansas, said on Friday that he's enjoying watching his son play and that Ronnie might well decide to play all four years at Arkansas because he enjoys the college atmosphere so much.

At the same time, Ron Brewer reminded Ronnie of the same thing Heath essentially said after a 73-67 win over Texas State: "Without Steven Hill's (10) blocked shots, you guys could have gotten beat."

Since that game, Heath has emphasized the importance of defensive patience.

"We're No. 2 in the Southeastern Conference in steals (10 per game, behind Tennessee's 11.75), so teams are very cautious to get in position where we can't get a steal," Heath pointed out. "We have to have discipline and patience on the defensive end."

Heath wanted to extend the floor some against Texas State, and in the first half the Hogs did force three consecutive Bobcats turnovers, including a five-second count before an inbounds pass.

"But you've got to score to get in the press, and you have to have the right personnel in there," Heath said. "Plus, we were down to about six guys at the end of the game."

Darian Townes (sprained knee), Charles Thomas (sore ankle) and Brewer (bruised knee) all got banged up against the Bobcats. Townes played just 12 minutes and Thomas 16, but both should resume practice today. An MRI exam showed no structural damage to Townes' knee. Brewer has iced his knee this week after practices but should be fine.

"Darian will have some discomfort throughout the season, but that's a normal condition," Heath said. "You could call it 'jumper's knee.'"



FRESHMEN EAGER




Neither point guard Sean McCurdy nor forward Cyrus McGowan, Arkansas' two freshmen, played against Texas State.

"It's not because of anything they did wrong," Heath said. "Those guys are working hard and they'll help us."

Some had expected that McCurdy might even push senior Dontell Jefferson for a starting role by the SEC season, but so far McCurdy has avergaged just nine minutes per game played.

"He's anxious -- I know he is," Heath said. "I should have gotten Sean in against Texas State in the first half, but then when the game was still close in the second half I didn't think it would be fair to him to put him in. As the year goes on he can help us. He's doing a good job."

McGowan has appeared in six games and averaged six minutes per game.

Ryan McBride, a third UA recruit in this year's class, is on schedule to transfer to Arkansas at semester but will not be eligible until next season.\



NOT JUST SHOOTERS




Besides its 3-point shooters, Missouri State has a 6-foot-10, 250-pound center, plus 6-9 forward Drew Richards, whom Arkansas tried to recruit.



NEW RULE




When the defense is whistled for intentionally kicking the ball, the shot clock does not reset this season under an altered NCAA rule.

The rule was also followed in the Holiday Hoops Tournament, which uses a 45-second shot clock.


















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