Hogs Impressed with Bucknell

The Hogs know what awaits in Dallas, a tough, smart Bucknell team. If you are looking for a place to stay in Dallas, HI.com suggests the Dallas Embassy Suites at Love Field. Click the ad inside this story to take you to their website.

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Jonathon "Pookie" Modica was still complaining of soreness in an ankle that was sprained Friday night in the early parts of a loss to Florida in the quarterfinals of the SEC basketball tournament.

Trainer Dave England didn't seem concerned. He said Modica would be fine by the 11:30 a.m. date with Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament in Dallas.

"He's done that three times this year, I think," England said. "I don't think this is any worse than the others and Pookie was fine after two or three days. I think he'll have it loosened up during today's workout."

Head coach Stan Heath said Modica was not asked to practice Monday, the team's first since coming back from the SEC tournament.

"We'll do whatever it takes to have him ready," Heath said. "Dave can read these well and he doesn't think Pookie is going to have a problem being full go by Friday."

Modica was still moving at less than full speed during Tuesday's workout when the practice was closed after the first 20 minutes, per the usual routine.

Heath said he had plenty to worry about in game preparations for Bucknell to spend much time fretting about Modica's ankle. He said the Bison is "for real. Everyone talks about them beating Kansas in the first round last year, but they've beaten a lot of other good teams. They don't just have that one on their resume."

The more Heath watches of Bucknell, the more impresed he becomes.

"I definitely appreciate how good they are from watching film," he said. "I watched that Kansas game and they didn't win on a fluke. They outplayed Kansas.

"They are highly, highly skilled. They have great shooters and have great ball skills. And, they are very, very smart in how they play. The minute you make a mistake, they take advantage.

"They aren't Princeton. They are more athletic than that. And, they have a 6-11 center who is very skilled and put up some big numbers on some very good teams.

"When you watch them, you see that they don't just run the clock down. They hold your scoring down with their defense, not by milking the clock. They can and will take a shot early in the clock. They are great shooters, so they take the first open shot. But they are patient and can and will wait until the clock runs down. They make you play defense and wait for a mistake. They can spread you out and back cut you. They are somewhat similar as far as philosophy with a Vanderbilt in our conference.

"What we have to do is find a way to disrupt them. We may have some advantages at some spots, especially the four. We have Charles Thomas and Vincent Hunter there, both tall and athletic. I see that they have 6-4 and 6-5 guys there, so if we have an advantage it is there.

"Defensively, they run a matchup and are very good at clogging the lane. They switch and pass off men. They understand how to keep you away from the basket."

As far as scouting Bucknell, Heath said he's had to tap on his relationship at Michigan State for some extra game tapes.

"We had Darren Sorrenson (director of basketball operations) fly to East Lansing after the SEC tournament," Heath said. "He was there when the bracket came out. I knew that they have a tape library that is about 1,700. Ours isn't as old and is about 200. So he brought back some extra tapes of Bucknell that we wouldn't have had. I think we have watched six or eight games."

Among the games the Hogs have on tape are Northern Iowa, Holy Cross, Duke, Syracuse and Kansas.

"I think we've seen those games so far," said Eric Ferguson, senior guard. "I know we have some more to watch.

"They are good. They play well together. I know we'll have seen them a lot by Friday."

Modica said he is "excited" about the trip to Dallas. He grew up watching the Hogs play on TV in tournament games in Dallas.

"I never got to go to Dallas to those games even though it wasn't far from home," Modica said. "We just didn't have money for that. I think my first Razorback game to see in person was when I was in the 11th grade.

"But I know about the way our fans travel to Dallas. Because of that, the entire team was excited to get that draw."

What about playing Bucknell?

"We know they are a team that deserves to be in the tournament and deserves a good seed," Modica said. "They are good. You watch them on tape and you see they can really play. We know who they've played and what they've done, too.

"But everyone in the tournament is good at this point. We didn't expect anything but a tough team.

"It's going to be a big game, a lot of fun. I'm excited because we've worked hard the last four years to get Arkansas basketball back to where it belongs. It's great to be a part of this. Now, it's our goal to make some noise in this tournament."

Ferguson said it would take more than one or two victories to do that.

"We are going down there with only Bucknell on our mind, but I want to get out of Dallas," he said. "It's been a tough road to get to this point and I don't want it to be just one game."

Assistant coach Dan Hipser respects what he saw of Bucknell.

"Smart, smart, very smart," Hipsher said. "I love smart teams. That's Bucknell. They make you pay for every mistake.

"Defensively, they run their matchup very well. They know what they are doing and handle it well.

"They are a true match. They take your set on offense and matched it with their defense. They switch on screens and play man principles in other areas.

"They protect their big man. They keep him around the bucket. They handled Kansas' double post system.

"What you have to do is take be patient and allow them to switch enough that you get a mismatch and maybe get their big man finally on a guard and draw a foul. But it is very difficult to do."

Hipsher was especially impressed with McNaughton.

"He's smart and can shoot," Hipsher said. "He's put up some big, big numbers against the bigger teams. He had twenty-something on Villanova and he got 29 on Kansas. Very impressive. He understands the game and how to get open and his teammates know exactly how to find him. He is a heckuva post player, a great player.

"What I'll say to summarize them the best is that they don't beat themselves. They know how to play the game. They are just smart basketball players and very, very skilled."

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