Hogs Heat Up, Bury Auburn

FAYETTEVILLE -- After a sluggish first half in which Arkansas led Auburn just 36-31, Hogs coach Stan Heath challenged guards Ronnie Brewer and Jonathon Modica to step up their energy levels in the second half.


Brewer scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the second half and Modica had 12 of his 17 in that half as Arkansas cruised to an 84-64 win and a season sweep of the Tigers.

"This game was similar to the first one, really -- we started out slow but came on in the second half," Modica said. "I just tried to provide some leadership."

The Razorbacks (16-7, 5-5 in the Southeastern Conference) inched one step closer to possible NCAA Tournament status, while Auburn dipped under .500 overall at 10-11 and fell to 2-8 in the league.

Auburn had to play the game without flu-ridden coach Jeff Lebo, who spent the evening lying under a blanket with the light off in the visitors' locker room.

"I had a chance to say 'hello' to Jeff after the game and he was sick as a dog," Heath said.

Assistant coach John Cooper guided the Tigers, who played well in the first half and actually out-quicked Arkansas 18 to 9 on the offensive boards for the game.

"We missed coach Lebo," said Auburn senior guard Ronny LeMelle (13 points), "but coach Cooper did a good job. Those two are like the same person."

Cooper commended the Tigers' first-half effort, but said, "We had a hard time dealing with Arkansas' pressure in the second half. Obviously, Brewer got going and got the crowd excited. He had six assists and no turnovers."

With Arkansas leading just 36-33 early in the second half, Brewer scored on a fast-break feed from Modica, then stole the ball seconds later for another basket and a 40-33 lead.

Korvotney Barber, who led Auburn with 14 points, dunked on the other end to make it 40-35, but Modica hit a 3-pointer as the 17,679 fans in Bud Walton Arena finally had something to yell about.

"In the first half, Auburn mixed up its defenses and made it hard to get in a rhythm," Brewer said. "We kinda came out slow and a lot of people's minds were still on our last game (a 78-77 loss at LSU)."

Modica summed up, "Our energy level just wasn't there in the first half. Coach Heath told us to just play harder and play smarter."

Modica credited Hogs guard Eric  Ferguson (nine points) with coming up with some big shots, including a coast-to-coast drive at the end of the first half.

"That was a momentum play," Heath agreed.

Happily for Hogs freshman guard Sean McCurdy, Arkansas outscored Auburn 40-25 during the four stints when he was on the floor (for a total of 14 minutes).

"It was good to get Sean extended minutes," Heath said.

Hogs assistant coach Ronny Thompson said, "I didn't realize we had such a run with Sean in there. He's a fiery kid who brings a lot of intangibles."

McCurdy (four points, one assist) missed two free throws late against LSU, but made 2 of 2 from the line against Auburn.

"Tonight was no time to bench him," Thompson said. "Michael Jordan once said he missed a lot more game-winning shot attempts than he ever made, but you've got to stick your neck out there. Sean was good against the 1-3-1 zone tonight and I just sat back in my chair when he went to the line because I knew he would make the free throws.

"He's that kind of kid. Sean has character."

Arkansas forward Charles Thomas started the game, scored the Hogs' first six points and finished with 13.

"There was no discussion this time," Heath said. "It was just, 'Charles, you're going to start.'"

Arkansas' smaller lineup was needed against the quick Tigers, who still made lots of layups by driving around the Hogs.

"I was concerned about this game," Heath said. "I thought we were emotionally drained, and it's hard to sit around all day and play a Saturday night game. Fortunately, we took the game very seriously."

The Razorbacks must take Ole Miss just as seriously on Wednesday night in Oxford, Miss., even though the Rebels have lost seven games in a row.

Ole Miss generally brings a fanatical effort against Arkansas.

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