Hogs Need An 'Edge' Against LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Up to a point, Arkansas coach Stan Heath and LSU coach John Brady could have handled each other's press conferences leading into tonight's tussle in the Maravich Assembly Center.

"It's an important game for us and an extremely important game for them," Brady said.

"Our task, our mission, is to go to LSU to win right now," Heath echoed.

"I've always thought Arkansas was as talented as any team in the league," Brady said.

"LSU may be the most talented team in the league," Heath said.

So much for the niceties. The fact is, LSU has beaten Arkansas six of the last seven meetings, and Heath is tired of it.

The last four games in the series have been decided by five points or fewer, including last year's controversial 66-63 LSU win in overtime in Baton Rouge.

"That game didn't sit with us very well," Heath said. "We were not real happy about the outcome."

A jump shot by Arkansas' Michael Jones at the end of regulation, first called a 3-pointer by at least one official, was reviewed and changed to a 2-pointer.

"On tape, it still looks like an Arkansas win," Heath said. "I wouldn't mind us having a little edge (tonight). I wouldn't mind winning by one."

Heath was asked if LSU is Arkansas' basketball rival now.

"I guess so," he said. "It kinda dates back to my first SEC Tournament game (an 85-56 LSU win) -- it got pretty heated.

"I know our fans like to get on coach Brady. I don't mind that. I kinda like that, too."

Brady, once called a "fly-by-night coach" by former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, has had mostly nice things to say about the Razorbacks (15-6, 4-4 in the Southeastern Conference) lately.

"Unfortunately they've lost some close games, but I don't look at a team as good or bad if two or three games were decided by three points either way," Brady said. "Arkansas played really well at home against South Carolina, and we'll have to be much better than we were against Alabama."

LSU (15-6, 7-1 SEC) lost 67-62 at Alabama on Saturday, as the Tide held Tigers guard Darrel Mitchell to 14 points and 6-foot-9 freshman Tyrus Thomas to four points.

Thomas leads the SEC in rebounding (9.5), blocked shots (3.19 to Razorback Steven Hill's 3.14) and field goal percentage (.611).

Mitchell (18.2 points per game) and LSU center Glen "Big Baby' Davis (17.7) rank second and third in the SEC in scoring behind Arkansas junior guard Ronnie Brewer (18.4). Hogs guard Jonathon Modica is eighth at 15.1, after a 37-point game against the Gamecocks.

"When these two teams play each other, you're in for a treat," Modica said. "We're both competitors. LSU is a tough group of guys. I have a lot of respect for their players and coaches. We'll have to box out Thomas, because last time we let him sky all over us."

Last time, on Jan. 11 in Fayetteville, Davis made a huge steal late to secure a 63-58 LSU win. Arkansas led early, before the Tigers went on a 30-6 run.

"I assume both of us are better now," Brady said. "Arkansas' confidence level will be high."

"LSU is a big rivalry," Brewer said. "Something is always happening, but it's good basketball. The NCAA (tournament committee) has got to look at quality wins, so this is a must-win for us."

Hogs forward Darian Townes, demoted from the starting lineup recently, has apparently stayed positive following Heath's recent challenge that he rebound better and play tougher defense.

"I had to take what he said, go out there with more firepower and get the job done when I did go out there," Townes said, referring to his six rebounds in 11 minutes against South Carolina. "LSU is a big game for us. It's going to be a dogfight the whole game."

Heath said LSU rebounds well and defends well.

"I think (6-7 freshman forward) Tasmin Mitchell is underrated for them," Heath added. "He's the quiet assassin on their team."

Tasmin Mitchell had 14 points but no rebounds in 37 minutes at Alabama.

"We only got to the free throw line six times and we're averaging 23 free throws a game," Brady said. "I was disappointed that an official missed a goaltending call.

"Alabama did a good job on Darrel Mitchell and I think Arkansas will make a concerted effort to do the same thing."

Heath said UA guards Dontell Jefferson and Eric Ferguson guarded Mitchell last time and would likely do so again.

Heath also said it would be "huge" to keep Hill, Arkansas' defensive anchor, out of foul trouble.

"We need to play better on the road for 40 minutes," Heath said. "We need to put ourselves in position to win -- which we've done -- and win."

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