Hogs' Matchup Against Rice Rekindles Memories

FAYETTEVILLE -- When Ron Brewer noticed that Rice was on Arkansas' basketball schedule this season, he said to his son Ronnie, "Hey, we used to play them."

To which Ronnie Brewer playfully rolled his eyes and said, "Yeah, yeah."

Back in the day, Arkansas beat Rice 100 times out of 140 games. But the two teams haven't met since 1991, when the Hogs thrashed the Owls three times, including a 109-80 pasting in the old Southwest Conference Tournament.

This year's Owls are 4-4, highlighted by a 96-94 win over Utah and "lowlighted" by an 85-58 loss to Texas.

From 1976-78, when Brewer played for Arkansas, the Razorbacks went 6-0 against Rice.

These may not be your father's Owls, but tonight in Alltel Arena in North Little Rock it's Arkansas' winning legacy that Ronnie Brewer and Co. seek to uphold.

"People will always bring up the history of the Southwest Conference," Ronnie Brewer said. "And we enjoy playing in Little Rock. Last year the arena was packed for the Illinois game, and it gives you a lot of momentum."

Hogs coach Stan Heath cited the history of this game, even while referring to the "Southwestern" Conference.

He at first called Rice's 14th-year coach "Woody Wilson," before correcting that to Willis Wilson.

By whatever name, Wilson has posted a creditable 192-191 record at Rice, including a 19-12 ledger and an NIT appearance last season.

"This is an old-school matchup," Heath said. "We sought a good opponent, and Rice wanted to play us."

The Owls feature Lorenzo Williams, a 6-foot-1 junior guard who averages 14.0 points per game; Morris Almond, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard also averaging 14.0; and J.R. Harrison, a versatile 6-6 senior forward averaging 12.6 points and 7.4 rebounds.

"Williams is a fast left-hander," Heath said. "Almond shoots 50 percent on 3-pointers (14 of 28), and Harrison is an undersized '4' who can play inside or outside. He presents a matchup problem for us."

Jamaal Moore, a 6-5 senior forward, averages 10 points for the Owls. Rice's starting center, 6-8 Patrick Britton, averages 4.6 points and 5.0 rebounds.

Heath plans to again start 6-8 forward Charles Thomas, who had 17 points and 8 rebounds in a 79-75 win over Missouri State on Thursday night.

"What really matters is who's playing at the finish," Thomas said Friday, before boarding the team bus to central Arkansas. "In the last game I took the shots I've been taking in practice. The coaches have been getting on me to shoot those shots in the games, so I did."

Darian Townes, who came off the bench Thursday night, still had 15 points and 7 rebounds. He had been hobbled by a sore left knee, but UA trainer Dave England said Friday, "I thought Darian moved pretty well in the game."

Heath said he chose a charter bus for this weekend's trip because it allowed for camaraderie on the team. The Hogs spent part of Friday visiting the Arkansas Children's Hospital.

Heath wondered aloud if Missouri State coach Barry Hinson was kidding when Hinson said Arkansas slowed Thursday's game down.

"I missed (seeing) it when we walked the ball up," Heath said. "Missouri State started the second half in its second defense, a 2-3 zone."

Arkansas hounded Missouri State into 14 first-half turnovers, moving Bears forward Tyler Chaney to say, "Coming into this atmosphere, we didn't handle the pressure very well."

But Heath said he didn't think Rice would mind a speedy tempo tonight. The Hogs must put the physical Missouri State game behind them and be ready for anything, he said.

Rice is coming off a 93-54 home win over Palm Beach Atlantic, in which Williams was 6-of-6 from the field.

"We don't want a letdown," Heath said. "We like playing in Alltel. It's a good atmosphere. The place was rocking last year."

Arkansas is scheduled to play Texas Tech in Alltel Arena next season, and Heath said, "I think we'll always try to keep a game in (North) Little Rock."

He did say he'd prefer a Saturday afternoon game, but (ARSN) television dictated the 7:35 p.m. tipoff.

The Razorbacks' 100 all-time wins over Rice are their second-most against any opponent. Arkansas leads its TCU series 104-38.

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