After beating back the Kangaroos, the Razorbacks will now take their turn with the Chippewas and then face their finals.
With just days before semester tests begin and a nine-day game break ensues, the University of Arkansas (6-1) gets Central Michigan (3-3) in a 7:05 p.m. game Tuesday night at the Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas head coach Stan Heath is hoping his players' minds are on the court on Tuesday night because of a solid foe coached by his friend and former UCLA assistant Ernie Ziegler.
"We have to be ready to play," Heath said. "Our room for error is not great. We can't play poorly and beat teams. We have to play well. We have to show up and have a certain level of intensity."
That's what happened on Saturday, but not until right before halftime when the Razorbacks began to whittle a 11-point deficit to UMKC down and eventually took the lead for good early in the second half.
The Razorbacks – coming off a 86-64 pasting at Missouri – eventually beat the Kangaroos 71-61 in a game where they had 16 turnovers.
"I think we can make better decisions," Heath said. "The majority of our turnovers are coming in the frontcourt, from halfcourt to the basket. We're giving it up on charges or rebounds and getting stripped. Those are toughness things and we'll get better. Sometimes our guys are speeding it up and playing faster than they should."
One of those guys is junior point guard Gary Ervin, who Heath didn't start on Saturday to emphasize his point.
Ervin responded with 12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and just one turnover.
"I thought he responded very well," Heath said. "We had a lot of talks and sometimes I think that is what players need to get a clear understanding of what they need to do out there on the court to be effective...I wanted to make sure his head was clear on what we needed him to do."
Ervin (10.0) is expected to join 6-1 freshman guard Patrick Beverley (13.1) in the starting lineup along with 6-8 junior forward Charles Thomas (11.0), 6-6 junior small forward Sonny Weems (12.1) and likely junior forward Darian Townes (6.5).
Townes, who had a season-high 19 points on Saturday, will likely get the nod over Steven Hill, who has been battling a virus and has lost some weight.
"I want our guys to have a more of a mentality of making each other better," Heath said. "Creating a lot more synergy where one guy where one guy can make another player better – somebody make Steven Hill a better offensive player with your passing, somebody make Stefan Welsh or Sean McCurdy a better shooter by setting them up."
Arkansas will play a team in Central Michigan that has wins over Brown, UMKC and Wisconsin-Milwaukee and losses at Cincinnati, on a neutral court to Youngstown State and then 67-66 at home to San Diego on Saturday night.
In that game, San Diego scored the last nine points of the game.
"Every time we felt we were in control of the game, they made a run and kept battling and battling," Zeigler said. "In the last four minutes, our lack of poise showed its ugly head and we came up on the short end."
The Chippewas are led by 5-10 junior guard Giordan Watson (17.0), who poured in 30 points in the win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
He is joined in the starting lineup by 6-6 senior Stefon Barrett (9.0), 6-8 sophomore forward Chris Kellerman (8.2), 6-6 senior Eddie Spencer (7.5) and 6-7 junior forward Justin Blevins (6.3).
"They have played everybody close, had some tough losses, had some good wins," Heath said. "They have a really good player in Girodan Watson…He is scoring a lot of points and he is good off the dribble and good off the shot. The other thing that makes them difficult is their big guys have the ability to shoot the ball from outside."
Hogs vs. Chippewas
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