SEC Tune-ups

Arkansas (9-2) hopes to extend its seven-game winning streak with a pair of nonconference home games this weekend against the University of Texas-Pan Amercian and Western Illinois.

With everybody back on campus and healthy after Christmas Break, University of Arkansas basketball coach Stan Heath wants to just shore up some areas in his team's final two non-conference outings.

The Razorbacks (9-2), who rode a seven-game winning streak into the Christmas Break, will host the University of Texas Pan-American (2-11) Friday night at 7 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena and then Western Illinois (3-5) on Sunday at 7:35.

"We left off playing pretty good and we have come back and had a couple of good days of practice," UA head coach Stan Heath said. "Now it's just trying to continue to get better in our halfcourt offense, our pressure defense and our rebounding."

It would seem those would be easy to do against a pair of teams that were 5-16 combined going into Thursday and the last two foes Arkansas will see before opening its SEC campaign at Mississippi State on Jan. 7.

"We have to take care of our own business and not take anybody lightly," Heath said. "We have to be a team that is focused and not play down a level, but bring our A game."

While he wants to see more cutting out of his offense, Heath's main focus is perhaps rebounding.

"We should be a plus-five or more rebounding team," Heath said. "Some of it may be because we get some many easy baskets off turnovers, but we don't get the boards we are capable of...I still feel like there are shots going up and we are getting pushed under the rim when we shouldn't be."

UTPA, which lost at Oregon State77-54 on Wednesday night, will offer up a challenge that Heath is looking forward to his team working on.

"We are going to see a lot of zone in this next game," Heath said. "It's a team that may play 80 percent zone in this game."

Western Illinois plays Birmingham Southern in Orlando, Fla, on Thursday in the Central Florida Holiday Tournament before battling either Central Florida or North Florida in the event on Friday night.

They'll then make the trip to Fayetteville for the New Year's Day night game to face an Arkansas team that is feeling pretty good about itself after a 78-65 win over Texas Tech in Dallas in its last game.

"I thought we played well on both offense and defense," Heath said. "It was another team that made a run at our lead, but we didn't get shaken...It gave us some confidence that we can go on the road, take somebody's best shot and win. The players came back feeling good about themselves and knowing we have a chance to be a very good team."


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