Hogs Find Comfort Zone

Arkansas avoided its usual second-half lull to throttle Ole Miss -- thanks to an effective 2-3 zone defense.

Remember the days when Arkansas couldn't solve a zone? That was Ole Miss on Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks locked up the lane with a salty zone defense and a bunch of long arms to prevent any scary moments against the Rebels.

Arkansas held a 15-point halftime lead and the visitors never were as close as single digits after intermission in a rare comfortable SEC home victory.

"Their zone affected us," said Mississippi coach Rod Barnes. "The zone kept us out of the middle. We didn't do a good job of attacking the seams and gaps, but those two guards out top made it tough with their long arms."

Ole Miss might have wanted to play more zone, but they couldn't with the way the Hogs took control of the game over the final eight minutes of the first half.

"I think we just stayed aggressive from start to finish tonight," said UA guard Jonathon Modica, the game's top scorer with 20 points.

Modica's eyes lit up when he saw the defensive matchup he drew at the outset, Ole Miss point guard Todd Abernethy.

"I didn't think he could stay with me and I just tried to take him to the rim," Modica said. "He tried to get up underneath me and bother me that way, but it didn't. I tried to do what Coach (Dan) Hipsher has been preaching to us -- keep moving, keep moving, keep cutting."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath thought it was a sensational performance by Modica.

"He was just terrific all night," Heath said. "I thought Ole Miss would have trouble matching up with us. I think that was a good matchup for us. Modica got two quick fouls on Abernethy and that seemed to take him out of the game and change the way he was playing. I was a little surprised they put Abernathy on him, but like I said, I thought they might have matchup problems with us.

"I thought Modica was really cutting well. He made some really nice hard cuts and curls. That was the best he's looked in that and that made it tough on their defense. His movement was very, very good. He got loose in our motion offense and played very strong. And, he rebounded and played solid defense, too. He showed a lot of maturity."

On the other end, Ole Miss wasn't getting the same movement.

"We were standing around," Barnes said. "We are a team that likes to get it inside and when we couldn't, it bothered us. I thought it was very good team defense by Arkansas. They pushed us out and give them credit for that."

Heath said the game plan didn't include a heavy dose of zone. It just worked out that way.

"They had beaten us inside off some passes from the post, and we went to gthe zone to cut that off," Heath said. "Then, we got about four or five stops in a row and just stayed in it."

Actually, the Hogs blanked the Rebels for over seven minutes and allowed only one basket over the final nine minutes of the first half after a a 19-19 tie.

"The main thing after that was we stayed aggressive offense and kept them at arm's length throughout the second half," Heath said. "We answered everything they had."

The victory put the Hogs at 3-3, the latest they've been at the .500 mark in SEC play under Heath. The UA boss wasn't ready to celebrate.

"Going to Rupp (Arena) on Sunday to play Kentucky is very big," Heath said. "A couple of years ago we went up there starry eyed and got shellacked pretty good early.

"In some ways, we still need a signature win. Maybe we got a little bit of one against Kansas earlier, but we need a big one, one that people will notice."

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