Hogs Complete Rally, Then Lose At Ole Miss

OXFORD, Miss. — Charles Thomas' 3-pointer touched nothing but net, sparking a burst of emotion from the hundreds of Hogs fans who traveled to Tad Smith Coliseum. Suddenly, Arkansas appeared destined to win a game that seemed to have been lost Saturday.

Just 31 seconds remained, and Thomas' clutch shot capped an Arkansas rally that erased Ole Miss' 14-point second-half lead.

The joy was short-lived.

Ole Miss' Dwayne Curtis knocked down two free throws, after the last of Arkansas' many defensive breakdowns, and Gary Ervin couldn't convert on two late drives. The Rebels (12-5, 1-2) held on for a 74-72 victory, handing the Razorbacks a loss that looked just like the many they incurred early in last year's Southeastern Conference season.

Then, the Razorbacks (12-5, 1-2) played with rare consistency and even overlooked opponents. Now, they appear to have learned little.

"I understood coming into this game that (Ole Miss') backs were against the wall," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "I knew they'd really want this game, and we didn't match that intensity at all. We did not match it in the first half."

The Hogs didn't sport an inspired look until late in the second half. When Ole Miss' Brian Smith swished a 3-pointer with 8:04 left, they trailed 63-49.

Heath called timeout. Patrick Beverley stormed to the bench, ripping his jersey from his shorts. Thomas stuck his face up into air in disgust. Ervin barked at teammates, hoping to inspire a comeback.

It nearly materialized.

A 16-2 spurt immediately followed, punctuated by Sonny Weems' steal and game-tying layup.

"I don't think it was too late for us to get going," Ervin said. "The game is never over until the buzzer sounds. We actually took the lead. But then, we got mixed up and they got a wide-open shot."

The confusion left Curtis under the hoop, by himself, after Thomas' 20-footer put Arkansas on top.

After Curtis nailed both free throws, Ervin drove the length of the court and threw up a wild shot, hoping to get fouled. There was minor contact. But no call. Clarence Sanders drilled one of two free throws on the other end, and Ervin tried again to go deep into the Rebels defense. Again, he initiated contact. Again, no call.

"I tried to get the foul, but in late situations you're not going to get foul calls on the road," Ervin said. "All I can say is those are plays I have to finish, and I didn't."

Heath nearly lost his cool after each sequence. He complained to the officials most of the afternoon. A common sight included Heath next to a referee, bickering over a call.

"It was a heck of a football contest," Heath said sarcastically. "I can't believe how physical the game got. Some of the physical play that was allowed to happen in this game — it was rough. It's hard to play in that style. Our guys will have to get tougher in order to play a more physical game."

None of those issues would've come up if Arkansas hadn't, as Steven Hill put it, "taken our opponent lightly."

The Hogs scored the first six points, but they never looked comfortable in the first half after that start. They committed 11 turnovers before halftime.

They were so out of sorts that one of those miscues occurred immediately after an Ole Miss basket. Weems simply fired the ball over Ervin's head and into the lap of a Rebels fan.

"We just weren't being smart, and that starts with me," Ervin said. "The difference between last week and this week was me. I'm the leader. I take control of the game, and I don't think I did that."

Meanwhile, when they held onto the ball, the Hogs often stood around confused, watching one another as the Rebels alternated between man-to-man and zone defenses.

"We tried to really switch our looks and keep them out of balance," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "We were switching so much, I think we that (confused them)."

All those factors left Arkansas facing what turned out to be an insurmountable deficit.

"We just didn't come out ready to play," Hill said. "Against Alabama, we played all 40 minutes. This game, we just had spurts here and there."

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