Hogs Learn About Longhorns

Arkansas travels to Austin to play Texas on ESPN2 on Wednesday night, but first the Razorbacks need to learn some history lessons -- about the Longhorns and about falling behind 18-3.

Arkansas players and coaches are in the process of learning about the importance of the Texas series ahead of their trip to play the Longhorns Wednesday in Austin.

"None of our guys really knew it was a rivalry game," said Stan Heath, Arkansas coach. "I didn't realize it's been since 1991 since we played them, so these guys, our players, were very young and don't understand this game.

"I wanted to tell them about it and make sure they understood what they would be facing from their fans when they go into that arena."

Many of the Arkansas players are from out of state, but even those raised in the Land of Opportunity don't understand the series.

"I had never known that it was a big game between Arkansas and Texas," said Sonny Weems, a West Memphis product. "I was surprised when coach told us it was a rivalry game for our fans. I really didn't think we had a rival. It surprised me a lot."

Heath wondered if there would be many Arkansas fans in the Erwin Center since most Texas home games have failed to sell out this season. He was told that an Army guard unit stationed in Texas had purchased a block of just under 100 seats and that there could be quite a few Razorback fans in the arena.

"I know a little about the series now, and I know that we played two games there in 1995 on the way to the Seattle Final Four," Heath said. "Those games I know were not against Texas though."

What he's concerned about more than the rivalry is how the Hogs respond to a 15-point loss to Texas Tech on Saturday. He said the Hogs can't have starts like the one that gave Tech an 18-3 lead at the outset.

"We want to stress playing 40 minutes of solid basketball, but we also want to stress that we can't start games like that," Heath said. "We can't have starts that put us behind 18-3. I did think we fought our butts off after that, especially Charles Thomas. But we can play better than what we did at the start.

"If we'd played like that in other games, I might worry about it. But I'm throwing that one out.

"We hadn't had a start like that. I guess if you want to judge us on that one, you can, but I'm not going to yet."

What he is not throwing out is some of the things that caused the slow start. He didn't like the "standing around" against Tech's switching man-to-man.

"We were setting some little screens for our point guard and they were switching on them," Heath said. "We didn't handle them very well. We've changed some things so if we face them again. We weren't as prepared for the switching as we should have been.

"Our point guards, Gary Ervin and Sean McCurdy, have to play better. Sean is going to get more of an opportunity and we've also looked at putting Patrick Beverley on the point, too."

Weems said it wasn't so much the fault of the point guards.

"The wings, and it starts with me, were not doing anything to help our point guards," Weems said. "We weren't cutting and moving. If you want to look at what we should have been doing with our wings, look at Tech. They were cutting like we want to cut and we saw that.

"I was a guy in junior college who got open by cutting and I haven't been doing that since I've been here. I've been jogging through my cuts. I've got to sprint through them.

"If we can get back to cutting and moving, it will help. We can't beat teams by trying to go one-on-one."

Heath said it's a matter of adapting to the KISS theory.

"That would be keeping it very simple," he said. "We talked to our point guards about making the simple play. We showed them on tape how things would have worked had they taken an easy pass and made a very simple pass.

"The biggest thing in the last game, we didn't handle their switching. We didn't make any back-door cuts on their switch. We didn't slip screens. We didn't do a good enough job on what they were doing and we've covered that for when we see it again.

"I hope you see us do a better job of countering some of the things we saw in this game. We have some newcomers and some who haven't played at this level and you find out real quick that you can't get away with some mistakes you got away of at a lower level of basketball. We are learning and adjusting."

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