In The Clutch

FAYETTEVILLE -- After each loss, Gary Ervin reran the game in his head. He still does actually, over and over again.

FAYETTEVILLE -- After each loss, Gary Ervin reran the game in his head. He still does actually, over and over again.

Despite trailing in recent losses at Ole Miss and to Georgia, Arkansas was in position to win in the final minute.

But the Razorbacks lost both games, failing to execute in the concluding moments. Ervin still thinks about the last seconds, praying his remembrance of the past will help in the future.

"We hadn't been in a lot of close situations besides the Southern Illinois (win) and Texas (loss) before conference play," Ervin said. "It's a learning process right now, and we just have to do some things in practice and get some things right at the end of games."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath must hope that his team's late-game education is complete.

In actuality, he has dreamed about that for some time now.

LSU (13-4, 2-1 SEC) comes to Bud Walton Arena today for a 2:45 p.m. game, possessing the talent necessary to force a tight game. And those types of contests haven't ended well for the Hogs throughout Heath's tenure.

In games decided by eight points or less, Heath is 18-29 in his four-plus seasons at Arkansas.

Arkansas is 2-4 thus far this season in those kinds of games, including losses in its last four.

"Early in the season, the guys played through it and executed what we wanted them to," Heath said. "Now, at times, I think they overthink or try to force too much."

While winning the Old Spice Classic in November, Arkansas recorded three close victories.

The Hogs rallied to beat Southern Illinois in overtime, holding the Salukis scoreless on their last nine trips in regulation. They converted key free throws in a win over Marist and put West Virginia away in the championship game with seven final-minute points.

"Then, we just played," Arkansas' Sonny Weems said. "We just played. We weren't thinking too much. We just played. We have to get back to that."

Because lately, late-game jitters that look similar to those experienced by last year's Razorbacks have arisen. In their first seven conference road contests last season, Arkansas lost six by five points or less. Arkansas' lone home loss of last season, by five points to LSU, was sandwiched in between those defeats.

In each drubbing, the Hogs couldn't "get that big defensive stop or get that big bucket," like Heath has talked about recently with this season's team.

The same problems occurred last Saturday in Oxford and Wednesday in Fayetteville.

Heath doesn't see the recurring issue as a trend.

On Monday, when discussing his Southeastern Conference road mark of 5-34, Heath half-heartedly joked, "Well, those first two seasons shouldn't count."

Fair enough.

But that still makes Arkansas 12-17 in games decided by eight points or less in the last two-plus seasons.

The Hogs grew out of it last year, sparking a six-game winning streak with a four-point overtime win over Florida. Heath aspires for his team to repeat the feat this season.

"Just playing through it (will help)," Heath said. "We must do what he had been doing to be in that situation and be successful. I don't know exactly why we get a little bit stagnant (late in the game) and hold onto the ball."

Ervin doesn't either.

That's why he can't stop thinking about it.

"We just need to get one in that kind of situation," Ervin said. "If we get one, then the next ones will be a lot easier."



Close, But Not Close Enough

Stan Heath's teams are 18-29 in games decided by eight points or less during his tenure at Arkansas.

Season Record

2002-03 2-6

03-04 4-6

04-05 3-5

05-06 7-8

06-07 2-4


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