The University of Arkansas basketball team hopes to usher in 2006 by continuing what it got started in 2005.
The Razorbacks (10-2) will try to push its winning streak to nine games night when they host Western Illinois (4-6) in a rare Sunday night game that tips off at 7:35 p.m.
Arkansas is coming in off a 66-38 win over the University of Texas-Pan American on Friday night in which they struggled for the first 26 minutes or so while the Leathernecks dropped North Florida 58-52 in the consolation game of the North Florida Holiday Classic.
"Interestingly if you look at their stats, they are a lot better than their record," Razorback head coach Stan Heath said. "They can score (72.8 per game), they shoot the ball well and they like to play at a fast pace and are very aggressive."
The Razorbacks - who are scoring at a 74.7 points per game clip - will be trying to play more like the second half of their game with UTPA than the first, where they led just 19-12 at the break.
"I would like to score more points, at least in the first half," Heath said. "As it turned out 47 in the second half was pretty good."
While Arkansas shot under 40 percent from the field for the game, Heath wanted to stress how impressed he was with his team's defense, which held a foe to less than 40 points for the second time this season.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Heath said. "I like a lot of the things we did out there as far as defense and rebounding. What happens today ins that crowds in college basketball show up wanting to be entertained. I've got more of the old (Detroit) Piston mentality. Sometimes shots don't aren't falling, but you can grind things out with your defense. My only problem is we turned the ball over too much (18)."
The Razorbacks will also be trying to jump-start 6-7 junior star Ronnie Brewer, who had tied his career low on Friday night with just two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field.
Brewer, who was playing with flu, was also held to 12 in a 78-65 win over Texas Tech the game before, and is now averaging 17.9 points per game.
That is good for fourth in the league after previously leading the SEC for most of the season.
"My biggest thing is to get Ronnie Brewer going," Heath said. "Part of his growth as a player is learning through soreness and injuries. I expect him to be about 30 percent better anyway and it is my responsibility to make sure he gets better. I may not play him 35 minutes unless for some reason we need, too, but he will play."
Western Illinois, which lost 67-54 to Birmingham-Southern in tournament play on Thursday, has played and lost to a couple of name foes already on the road in Indiana (109-79) and Kansas (86-57).
Arkansas, which downed Kansas 65-64 in the Maui Invitational back in late November, will be playing in its last non-conference game before opening SEC play at Mississippi State next Saturday.
The Razorbacks started last season 13-1 - including an SEC win over Ole Miss - before winning just five of its final 16 games.
Heath and the players are determined not to let that happen again.
"We need to step on the gas a little in this game and get things going," Heath said. "I expect that to happen. I expect our guys to come ready to play and put forth a great effort."
Townes also expects that to happen.
"This is going to be the time where we really start putting things together," Townes said. "No excuses from here on out. It's just about getting it done on the court."
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