Heath Wants To See Turnovers Cut Down

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' five starters strolled onto the Bud Walton Arena court Saturday afternoon, absent a familiar face.

Gary Ervin wasn't shaking any hands. He wasn't greeting any of Missouri-Kansas City's players. He wasn't tugging at his shoes or readjusting his headband. The Razorbacks' junior point guard, a starter in the Hogs' first six games, just sat next to Arkansas coach Stan Heath. The two already had spoken about Ervin's benching.

And even though Ervin disagreed, he understood. After all, the transfer from Mississippi State had committed 26 turnovers in his first six games as a Razorback.

"Coach was just trying to send a message to me," Ervin said. "I'm supposed to be a leader for this team, and he wanted me to show it by taking care of the ball more. It was a good message. I took it to heart."

Showing more discipline and care with the ball, Ervin came off the bench to turn his best career game at Arkansas. He had 12 points and eight rebounds, but more importantly he registered five assists and just one turnover in the Hogs' 71-61 victory.

Ervin's teammates, though, struggled with turnovers Saturday. The rest of the Hogs still turned the ball over 15 times.

So, with Ervin back in the starting lineup, the Hogs' improvement in that area is foremost on the mind of Heath tonight. Arkansas (6-1) entertains Central Michigan (3-3) in a 7 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks enter their last game before a nine-day break for final exams sporting an assist-to-turnover ratio that ranks last (0.80) in the Southeastern Conference.

"I think we can make better decisions," Heath said. "The majority of our turnovers are coming in the front-court, from half-court to the basket. We're giving it up on charges and on rebounds and getting stripped. Those are toughness things and we'll get better. Sometimes guys speed up and play a little faster than they should."

Hogs center Steven Hill agreed, expanding on Heath's notion that Arkansas' desire to play with more tempo has contributed to sloppy play.

He also talked of a snowball effect, which surfaced in the first half of Arkansas' loss Thursday night at Missouri. Then, faced with the Tigers' "40 Minutes of Hell" defense, the Razorbacks committed an almost unimaginable 18 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

"It seems like our turnovers come in bunches," Hill said. "If we turn it over once, then it seems like we turn it over three or four times in a row. Sometimes we just get too sped up for our own good when we get pressured. And, it's not just the guards' fault. The big guys have to do that part, as well. We've got to do a much better job of taking care of the ball."

If they don't, as Heath showed with his handling of Ervin, they might mind themselves spending long stints on the bench.

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