Physical Play Disrupts Razorbacks

OXFORD, Miss. -- Arkansas point guard Sean McCurdy walked with a slight limp after taking his share of hits Wednesday night.

And it wouldn't be a surprise if center Steven Hill needed to put a few ice packs on his knees to reduce the soreness that will likely set in today.

After facing Ole Miss already once this season, Arkansas' players knew to expect another physical game that would include some bumps, bruises and a few hard fouls. But the Razorbacks had a difficult time pushing back, and as a result, they got pushed around in a 73-70 loss at Tad Smith Coliseum.

"I've been here for four years, and that's the way they play. They play hard and aggressive," Arkansas guard Eric Ferguson said. "We know coming into the game that they were going to do that."

On a night when guard Ronnie Brewer had trouble finding a rhythm and his teammates missed open shots, the Razorbacks could have used some toughness in the paint.

But the Razorbacks had no answer for slowing down Dwayne Curtis, the Rebels' bruising 6-foot-8, 290-pound center. And Arkansas had even more trouble finding an offensive rhythm and establishing a low-post presence while getting fouled 26 times.

"You've just got to play through that. That's basketball," guard Ronnie Brewer said. "I think we're a big enough team to play through that."

Ole Miss made a conscious effort to be more physical against Arkansas, which has struggled at times this season against teams with big men that aren't afraid to throw their weight around in the paint.

Brewer missed all three of his shots in the first half, and whenever he tried to drive to the basket, he found himself sprawled out on the floor after taking a hard foul. He scored all 10 of his first-half points at the free-throw line.

"We've got to play our style of basketball," Brewer said. "(Being physical) is not our style of basketball."

It certainly is Ole Miss' style. Curtis proved early on to be an inside force, and Arkansas didn't show it had the toughness in the paint to slow down the massive sophomore. Curtis finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, and the Rebels outscored the Razorbacks 38-26 in the paint.

They also pounded Hill throughout. Three times, the 7-foot center hit the floor after taking a hard foul -- and each time it seemed to take him a little bit longer to get up.

"They were a lot of physical play, a lot of pushing (and) a lot of unnecessary stuff," said Thomas, who fouled out after scoring only nine points and grabbing five rebounds. "But they came out with a 'W' tonight. I guess they wanted it more."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath tried everything to get more production out of his low-post players, who were outrebounded 43-37 -- including a 22-18 disadvantage on the offensive glass.

Heath rotated forwards Charles Thomas, Darian Charles, Vincent Hunter and Cyrus McGowan into the lineup, but none of them provided enough physical play down the stretch.

"We were ready for the aggressiveness they (the Rebels) were going to bring," Ferguson said. "But they just played harder than us in the second half."

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