Hogs Must Match Georgia's Physical Play

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If tonight's Georgia-Arkansas game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament gets as physical as Sunday's game between the two schools did, Hogs guard Eric Ferguson will be ready.

Bulldogs center Dave Bliss threw his weight around effectively during Arkansas' 74-57 win over Georgia in Athens, Ga., and indicated Wednesday he would do so again.

"I like that," Ferguson said. "I wish I had a player on my team like that. If he's throwing 'bows, we've gotta throw 'bows."

Expect officials and players to be vigilant when tonight's game tips off at around 8:45 p.m.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath cautioned, "We've got to be smart. Any type of retaliation is dangerous."

At the same time, Heath expects Hogs center Steven Hill and forwards Darian Townes and Charles Thomas to hold their ground.

"Charles doesn't care if the game is physical," Heath said. "But some guys respond differently. I thought after our practices last Friday and Saturday that Hill and Townes were ready to play like All-Americans. That's what I expected to see Sunday, but it didn't happen."

Instead, Townes scored just two points and Hill had none.

"They said (Georgia's physical play) didn't bother them, but maybe it did," Heath said. "We need those guys to play consistently."

Thomas, who got tangled up with Bliss in a double foul at one point, simply screamed louder after each of his 15 rebounds -- to the point that Georgia's student fans began mimicking him.

"I enjoyed that," Thomas said. "In my mind, they were cheering for me."

Heath said emotions were high Sunday, even if it appeared that both teams came out flat.

"Georgia was fighting for their lives," Heath said. "They wanted to get to the NIT. I think a .500 record is enough (for that), but they may feel they need a few more wins."

The Bulldogs enter tonight's game at 15-14, while Arkansas is 21-8.

Arkansas leads Georgia 5-1 in SEC Tournament play and is riding a five-game winning streak -- its longest in SEC play since 2001.

"You see guys smiling and having fun on this team," said UA senior Jonathon Modica. "Guys are encouraging each other. I feel we're coming in here to get a big upset and tear this place up."

The old postseason vibe is in the air.

Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles dropped by Tuesday's basketball practice in Fayetteville and chatted with Heath awhile.

Today will feel like old times, as Kentucky fans and Arkansas fans make their presence known in the Gaylord Entertainment Center. At least one SEC coach seems to have bought into that buzz.

"If you're looking for a dark horse, I would mention two," said South Carolina coach Dave Odom. "Arkansas, because they have an excellent backcourt and excellent size, and Kentucky, because they have both of those ingredients as well."

The Razorbacks, who haven't even won a game in the SEC Tournament since 2001, must have only Georgia on their mind for now.

"I like our chances," Heath said. "I always thought all this team was missing was one big win, and we got that marquee win over Florida to turn things around."

Bulldogs coach Dennis Felton said Georgia normally plays with "more aggression" than it did Saturday, but that the team got "dispirited" after missing shots.

Bliss said, "We just tried to be aggressive early and limit Arkansas' touches inside by not giving up position in the post. We'll try to do the same thing again. That's my style, just playing physical -- I'm not trying to get in anyone's head."

Both Bliss and Georgia junior guard Levi Stukes said the Bulldogs played poorly Sunday, but not because of a lack of effort.

"I think we come with energy every game," Stukes said. "We're just looking at things we might improve on. I try to make it hard for guards to catch the ball on the perimeter."

Felton said Arkansas is playing with a high level of confidence, resulting from its recent wins against strong competition.

"They've been turning the corner all along since coach Heath has been there," he said. "But now they've turned a major corner. They're a strong challenge, as we've already found out."

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