Hogs' Main Men Ready For Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. -- Chances are, Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes will have his team keep close tabs on Arkansas guards Ronnie Brewer and Jonathon Modica tonight.

"Those two are probably playing as well as any two wing men in the league, and maybe in the country," Barnes said.

If Arkansas (16-7, 5-5 in the Southeastern Conference) is to continue an NCAA Tournament push, Brewer and Modica figure to lead the way tonight against Ole Miss (13-10, 3-7 SEC).

"They're putting up numbers on a consistent basis," Barnes said.

Brewer leads the SEC in scoring with an 18.7 average, while Modica (sixth at 15.4) has averaged 24.7 in his last three games.

"It's just maturity," said Arkansas coach Stan Heath. "Those two players have had a great relationship, but they're learning how to complement each other. It makes both of them better, and we want to ride that horse a while longer."

Brewer and Modica, both communications majors, have established a connection with each other lately, Heath said.

Brewer agreed.

"Being able to read each other and trying to find each other on the court makes our team better," Brewer said. "We're trying to step up as leaders and captains of the team. It's really important for us to make the NCAA Tournament."

Tonight's 7:05 game might be the biggest for the Razorbacks, because it could give them a second road win in the SEC and position them to get 20 wins by sweeping their remaining home games.

"It's going to be a dogfight," Brewer said. "It's always difficult at Ole Miss."

Heath called both Brewer and Modica "excellent finishers" on the fast break, and credited Brewer with some great passes in last Saturday's 84-64 win over Auburn.

"Ronnie made some bullet passes," Heath said. "I said, 'Man, you look like a point guard.' I don't know if he relishes that role like he should or could."

Modica, who has averaged 20.7 points in his last six games, has often been the recipient of Brewer's passes, and vice versa.

"I've been so proud of Modica, you guys have no idea," Heath said Monday.

But Heath added that Arkansas must also get good play at point guard, and good inside production from Steven Hill, Charles Thomas and Darian Townes.

"Point guard is a key, whether it's Dontell Jefferson, Eric Ferguson or Sean McCurdy," Heath said.

Jefferson made some big plays at Ole Miss last season to help Arkansas win 66-65.

"We were down four points in the last minute," Heath recalled.

Arkansas has won the last three games in the series, following a period of Rebels domination. The Rebs are on a current seven-game losing streak, but they lead Arkansas 11-5 in games played at Oxford.

"We're the third-youngest team in the league, and it's starting to show," Barnes said. "We're in a rebuilding process and we've still got a few missing pieces. We lack in confidence --kind of like my first season here. This is an unforgiving league. But one of these games, we're going to put everything together."

Heath viewed only tapes of the Rebels' home games, because they play so much better in the Tad Pad.

"That's a hostile environment," Heath said. "It's always a war there. We have to play with urgency, because time is ticking for us. But hey, things are still in our hands. We can still control things."

The Hogs had better control 6-foot-8 Rebs center Dwayne Curtis (13.4 average) and 6-1 point guard Todd Abernethy (9.3), for starters. Bam Doyne of Little Rock and Clarence Sanders, each averaging 9.7 points, are also dangerous, Heath said.

"Getting over .500 in the league would be a big boost," Heath said. "Winning is contagious, and we want to get on a winning roll."

Little things have kept Arkansas from winning close games in the SEC, Heath said.

"I feel that's the last piece we lack," he said. "Our stats have been pretty solid, except rebounding. We've got to make sure we do everything right down the stretch. At LSU, we didn't switch well on defense and we were too congested on our last possession."

Mississippi native Charles Thomas, who will start at forward again tonight for Arkansas, said he would approach this game no differently.

"We just want to take care of business," he said.

Thomas and Townes must box their men out when Hill goes for blocked shots, Thomas said.

Heath said it will be important to keep Curtis from getting off to a good start.

The Hogs pressed full court early against Auburn, with mixed results.

"I didn't get what I wanted from the press -- I wanted to energize the team -- but it didn't hurt us," Heath said. "We definitely want to keep the press in our pocket, have it ready and do a little damage with it."




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