Hogs Host Struggling Broncs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Two basketball teams going in opposite directions -- Arkansas and Texas-Pan American -- meet at 7:05 p.m. today in Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks (9-2) have won seven straight games, while the Broncs (2-11) have lost nine in a row.

Texas-Pan American's most recent loss was to Oregon State by 78-54 at Corvallis, Ore., on Wednesday night.

Arkansas is coming off a 78-65 win over Texas Tech in Dallas, nine days ago in American Airlines Arena.

"We left off playing pretty good, so I wasn't excited about the (Christmas) break," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "But we've had a couple of good days of practice this week."

Hogs forward Darian Townes is still limping a bit on his tender left knee, and freshman guard Sean McCurdy twisted his ankle a bit in Wednesday's practice, but overall Arkansas is in good shape physically.

Heath said Texas-Pan American has struggled while playing quite a few newcomers this season, but he cautioned, "In this business you can't take anybody lightly. You've got to come to play. We've got a bigger picture in front of us."

After a game Sunday night against Western Illinois, another sub-.500 team, the Razorbacks will embark on their Southeastern Conference schedule, beginning Jan. 7 at Mississippi State.

"We need to make a big jump in rebounding," Heath said. "We should be a plus-five rebounding team. Rebounding is more of an attitude than anything. We're getting pushed under the rim, and not carving out space for ourselves."

Through 11 games, Arkansas has outrebounded its opponents by just .6 per game.

The Razorbacks should get some offensive rebounding opportunities tonight, as Texas-Pan American is expected to play a zone defense.

"We've seen some zones this year, but Texas-Pan American will play zone about 80 percent of the time," Heath said.

The Broncs, however, outrebounded Oregon State 38-31 in a game in which the Beavers blocked 10 shots.

Colin Lien, a 6-foot-11 junior center, led Texas-Pan American against Oregon State with 18 points in 24 minutes. Derrick East, a 6-8 senior forward, had nine points and leads the team in rebounds with 5.3 per game.

Guard Dexter Shankle leads the Broncs in scoring with a 12.2 average, despite being held to 5, 7 and 3 points respectively in the most recent losses to Stephen F. Austin, Wright State and Oregon State.

The Broncs had 16 turnovers to just eight by Oregon State -- a stat which should be music to Heath's ears.

"When we can get in transition, we're a dynamite team," Heath said. "We're fun to watch."

Early in the season, though, Texas-Pan American lost just 71-59 at Illinois -- another good transition team -- before 16,618 fans.

The Broncs, who have no conference affiliation, went 12-16 last season under first-year coach Robert Davenport.

"We're more concerned about playing at a high level," Heath said. "We're doing a lot of things well, but we have to bring our 'A' game because we have high goals."

Speaking of goals, Arkansas reserve guard Eric Ferguson has said he wants to be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year this season.

"That's a great goal," Heath said. "Eric definitely has a chance to do it. He's a tremendous defender on the ball, and he's so strong that he can guard bigger players and keep them from breaking him down. He can chase shooters across screens.

"He did a great job against (Texas Tech guard) Jarrius Jackson. If he can deal with him, he can do it against about anybody."

Junior guard Ronnie Brewer leads Arkansas with 19.4 points and 3.5 steals per game, but is coming off a 12-point game against Texas Tech.

Heath has said he'd like to get more playing time in these next two games for freshmen Sean McCurdy and Cyrus McGowan.

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