Stan Heath welcomed the CBS announcers at the Arkansas basketball practice Friday. They left raving about 7-0 center Steven Hill.
"They told me they didn't know he was that good," Heath said.
Well, everyone is starting to discover that Hill has some offensive game these days. LSU's Tigers were the latest to learn what the junior center can do around the rim on the pick-and-roll play and with offensive rebounds.
Hill scored 16 points -- same as LSU's all-everything Glen Davis -- to go with 7 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. The energy he brought to the game -- and a season-best crowd of 18,976 -- proved the difference in a 72-52 Arkansas victory at Bud Walton Arena.
It was the second straight game in which Hill beat his career high. He had scored 15 in a loss earlier this week to Georgia. He much preferred this performance even though it was just a single point better.
"We had to have this one," Hill said. "Everyone knew this was a must win. We had put ourselves in the hole by losing at home in the last game. I guess I was trying to remember how I played in the last game and wanted to try to duplicate that."
He did, thanks to a bunch of help from his teammates.
"I think we were sharing the basketball," he said. "That's important."
The Hogs had five in double figures with Sonny Weems following with 13. Weems was one of four Hogs with at least three assists with Gary Ervin leading with 7 assists.
"Coach wanted me and Steven on the same side to run the two-man game," Weems said. "He was setting good screens and then cutting off of them and getting behind his man. I like to give it back to him above the rim on that play. But we had a lot of guys doing that."
Hill said it's a play that all of the Hogs try to work with him.
"Really, the main thing is that the guard has to turn the corner against the double team," Hill said. "Sonny was doing that and then some of the others began to do the same thing. That puts the defense in a bind."
Over the last four games, Hill has connected on 20 of 22 shots, including 8 of 10 against the Tigers.
"Someone told me that," he said. "But that's mostly dunks and layups. I ought to be pretty good on those kind of shots. At least, I hope I would. It's good passing. My teammates are getting it to me in easy spots."
Heath said it's a matter of gaining some confidence.
"I think if you see what he's doing right now, he's one of the better players in the league," Heath said. "Right now, our guys are really going to him. We've had it going like that in practice. But right now, a lot of guys are wanting to pop it up for him above the rim. He's going after it with confidence. If you saw the last two games, you'd think he was one of the premier players in the league."
The Hogs got off to a quick start with Darian Townes scoring on the block with Hill taking Davis, the LSU center, to the opposite side of the lane. Ultimately, LSU had to fall back in a zone. Ironically, it was the Arkansas zone that limited the LSU offense late in the first half and throughout the second period.
"I can't fault our effort, how we tried to execute the game play or the way they took coaching," LSU coach John Brady said. "Sometimes I go into the locker room and I'm irate. I couldn't be like that today. It's just that we aren't very good against zones right now. We knew we'd see that today and we worked hard on it the last two days, very hard. Last year when we had it going, we carved up zones. We can't right now."
Arkansas outscored the Tigers, 39-26, in the first half and came close to duplicating that in the second half with a 33-26 edge.
"We were consistent on offense in the two halves," Brady said. "We got 26 in both of them. That's the problem. If I knew we'd get 52 for the game, I wouldn't have thought we had too good of a chance."
Brady didn't like the fact that his team shot only eight foul shots in what he thought was a "physical game." Davis, his best player, got most of those and was 4 of 5 from the line.
"I thought Glen was working hard and we were getting him the ball," Brady said. "I'd have thought he would have shot more than five foul shots. But that's a column you guys can write."
If Brady didn't like the work of the crew led by referee Mike Stuart, maybe he needs to talk to his attractive wife. Mrs. Brady allowed Stuart to plant a kiss on her cheek as she sat just behind the team bench before the game just after Stuart, the lead man in stripes, gave the usual pre-game handshakes to the coaching staff.
Stuart's crew called nine fouls against the Hogs and 15 against the Tigers. Arkansas shot most of its foul shots in the closing six minutes when the Tigers turned up the heat when the game was out of reach.
The Arkansas crowd was hard on Brady during the last six minutes when he was protesting Stuart's crew. They finally began a "sit down Brady" chant and the coach not only returned to the bench, but he acknowledged the red-clad partisans with a wave of his hand.
Gary Ervin congratulates Steven Hill after the game.
Photos by Neemah A. Esmaeilpour
Arkansas 72, LSU 52 (Final)
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