Good Time For Hogs Offense To Click

FAYETTEVILLE -- None of Tulsa's opponents have scored more than 70 points this season. Only one has tallied more than 65. Six of 11 have failed to break 60.

When the Hurricane (9-2) arrive in Fayetteville for a 7:05 p.m. game Tuesday in Bud Walton Arena, Arkansas coach Stan Heath knows what type of defense they'll be bringing with them.

"I had a chance to watch them play against Oklahoma. I think both teams were hovering in the 40s and 50s. It wasn't a very high scoring game. So their defense is real tough."

The Hurricane's loss to the Sooners on Dec. 21 in Oklahoma City was 58-48, to be exact, and Tulsa's defense forced 19 turnovers.

There couldn't be a better time then for Arkansas' offense to start clicking. For the third straight game, in an 80-50 victory on Saturday over Louisiana Tech, the Hogs (10-3) committed a season-low 11 turnovers.

No major change caused the decrease in miscues, Heath said. Just an increased emphasis on cherishing possessions.

"We're passing the ball much better, and we're getting much better spacing, as well," Heath said.

Arkansas must produce a repeat of its last three offensive outputs to avoid an upset.

The Razorbacks drained 17 of their last 29 field-goal attempts Saturday by frequently making an extra pass. The restraint led to more assists than turnovers for the sixth time in Arkansas' last seven games.

Most of its half-court possessions started with passes inside to Arkansas' big men such as Charles Thomas, Darian Townes and Steven Hill.

It's an offensive game plan Arkansas failed to follow consistently early in the season. But now, point guards Gary Ervin and Sean McCurdy look first to their post players.

"I think with all good basketball teams, if you have good post players, you should play inside out," Ervin said. "It just makes everything easier for us, because once our opponents start doubling, our big guys are willing to kick it out.

"They do a great job passing and, in the long run, it'll make us a better teams."

All four of Arkansas' first-half 3-pointers Saturday came from rapid ball movement that began in the post.

"When other teams double-team us, the our big men know to kick it out," Thomas said. "We work on that a lot."

That formula, if the big men can continue to make smart decisions, should make Arkansas tough to defend, Heath said.

Not that he thinks Tulsa will come into Bud Walton Arena intimidated. He realizes how precious every touch of the ball will be for Arkansas.

"We definitely can't have a high number of turnovers against them because possessions will shrink in this game," Heath said.

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