Hogs expect different Bulldogs

The Arkansas players know that post season means a new season for everyone. Hence, they expect the SEC tournament to produce a tougher game from the Georgia Bulldogs.

Arkansas players expect a much more aggressive approach and a tougher game from Georgia on Thursday night in the first round of the SEC tournament after dispatching of the Bulldogs in a comfortable game Sunday at Athens, Ga., in the regular-season finale.

"I know they will come prepared this time,"said Jonathon "Pookie" Modica of the way Georgia will approach the rematch in Nashville.

"We expect a better game from them. But, we expect to play better than we did that time. There are things we can do better and we will work on them this week."

The Hogs feel their chances are as good as any other SEC team this week in Nashville. They point to their five-game winning streak and the way they performed on the road all season.

"We haven't been blown out by anyone on the road," said Ronnie Brewer. "All of our games have been close, even the ones we've lost. That tells us we can play with anyone."

Modica said the Hogs chances hinge on the way the team "shares the ball and gets to the basket. We need to use our inside game, get it to the paint. If we keep getting it down inside, we'll do well. We are very capable of winning this whole tournament in Nashville."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath said this Arkansas team is much different than the last three he coached that lost in the first round. How?

"Better players, more experience," he said. "Coaches can help put your team in a better position, but it's still all about experience and ability. That's what we have this year. We are just better and we are older."

Modica said the same thing, noting the Hogs are "just more talented and more experienced."

Asked what contributed most to the Hogs' current winning streak, veteran assistant Dan Hipsher didn't hesitate when he pointed to the experience gained in some early-season losses both in Maui and in conference play.

"We made a few plays at the end of games that we didn't make earlier this season," Hipsher said. "You have a few plays at the end of games that determine the outcome. We didn't make them early and we learned our lesson. We made them later.

"I think if you look, we had the ball in the right hands more at the end of these last five games. And, the ball bounces your way more times when it ends up in the right hands.

"I'm a big believer that the smart team wins most of the time. We played it smart of late."

Hipsher pointed to the loss at LSU earlier this season when the ball ended up in the hands of freshman guard Sean McCurdy instead of with Brewer or Modica.

"Okay, we inbound the ball to Ronnie and he moves it forward to Sean," Hipsher said. "So, I don't think that's a bad play because Sean is a good foul shooter. But you want it to stay with Ronnie there. He didn't need to give it up.

"So, against Tennessee, it goes to Eric Ferguson and Modica and they hit their free throws. They kept the ball because they are seniors. That's what I'm talking about as far as making smart plays. We got the ball to the right people and they made the plays.

"It's always going to come down to two or three plays at the end of the game. You just have to make sure that your best players are the ones handling it when those plays happen. The guys are seeing that now."

No one seemed bothered that the Hogs are still not in any of the national polls.

"I don't look at the polls," Heath said. "The only thing that matters is whether or not you are winning. I will say that I do look at the Sagarin ratings. They have been better at predicting the 64-team field than the polls or the RPI or anyone else. We are 20th there, so I feel pretty decent. I think Sagarin has mattered of late, or at least gotten it right. So I like that."


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