Hogs Go Back On Unforgiving Road

FAYETTEVILLE -- Stan Heath said his basketball Hogs were "a little flat" against Auburn on Saturday night.

Ronnie Brewer said the Razorbacks' bodies were a little worn down.

Jonathon  Modica, who has scored 74 points in Arkansas' last three games, said the Hogs' energy level was low and Auburn "really stretched us out with their zone. They moved well out of it."

The truth was, the smaller Tigers looked quicker than the Razorbacks -- which may explain why they outrebounded Arkansas 33-32 despite losing the game 84-64.

Auburn assistant John Cooper, who handled the Tigers while head coach Jeff Lebo rested with stomach flu, didn't seem overly surprised that Auburn had 18 offensive rebounds to Arkansas' nine.

"A lot of times, the quickness bothers the size," Cooper said.

Cooper was playing the role of head coach for the second time in his career.

"The other time, another assistant and I took over for Eddie Fogler at South Carolina when we were losing by 20 points to North Carolina-Charlotte and he (Fogler) got kicked out," Cooper recalled. "We lost that one, too. You can say I'm 0-for-2."

Cooper had reason to be hopeful on Saturday for awhile, however.

"I thought we played well enough to be ahead by two at halftime, but instead we were down by five (36-31)," he said.

Cooper had run the Tigers' practice on Friday and had seen Lebo for just 20 minutes on Saturday, so he figured he might be coaching the team Saturday night.

"Jeff was asleep under a coat and looked like death," Cooper said. "I guess I had butterflies until the game started."

Heath probably did, too.

"We didn't get that much sleep Wednesday night after the LSU trip, and we were pretty drained in practice Thursday," Heath said. "But Friday's practice was good. I just think it's hard to play on Saturday night after you sit around all day."

The Razorbacks (16-7, 5-5 in the Southeastern Conference) found enough energy in the second half to outscore Auburn 48-33 in that period.

Forward Charles Thomas, who had 13 points and 5 rebounds for Arkansas, was tired enough afterwards that when he finished his media interviews he seemed almost disappointed to hear he'd been named Player of the Game by the UA radio crew.

That meant he had to go sit down for another interview.

"Aw, man, I thought I was done," Thomas said, with a weary smile.

It's been a tough SEC season, mentally as much as physically for Arkansas, ever since the Hogs missed a pile of free throws down the stretch in their league opener at Mississippi State, lost 69-67 and got behind the eight ball.

They've been pressing since then, trying to live up to their own preseason expectations and the fans' high hopes.

The SEC wins have been comfortable -- by an average of 15 points -- but the losses have been gut-wrenching. Arkansas has lost its five league games by a total of 13 points.

Now comes Ole Miss (13-10, 3-7 SEC), a team Arkansas has beaten three straight times. The Rebels started 3-0 in the SEC this year, but have since lost seven in a row.

In this topsy-turvy SEC season, that probably means the Rebels are due for one of their best efforts.

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