Razorbacks Tame Tigers

FAYETTEVILLE — His ponytail flopping up and down, Steven Hill jogged off the court Saturday to a standing ovation early in the second half. Later in the half, after a few more dunks and a couple more blocks, the 7-foot center received another round of thunderous applause.

And as he sat on the bench, waiting out the final moments of Arkansas' 72-52 victory over LSU, Hill heard even more from the 18,976 fans in Bud Walton Arena.

One side of the arena screamed, "Steven!" The other side answered, "Hill!"

Back and forth, they went.

"It was really humbling," Hill said.

The Tigers likely shared that same thought regarding Hill's production. Hill scored a career-high 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added three blocks, three assists and two steals as Arkansas snapped a three-game losing streak.

In a season-high 34 minutes, the junior from Branson, Mo., capped a remarkably efficient four-game stretch. Hill entered Saturday's contest having converted his last 12 field-goal attempts. He drained his first two shots Saturday and went on to finish 8 of 10 from the field.

"It's all layups and dunks," Hill said with a laugh. "So I would hope I could make 20 out of 22."

Hill's first points came on a fade-away eight-footer over LSU's Glen Davis. But then, Hill's dunking exhibition began. First, Hill finished a fast break by slamming down a lob from Sonny Weems.

That basket seemed to signal to Hill's teammates that his sometimes-absent aggressiveness was present.

"Actually, he finishes like that in practice," Weems said. "I don't know when he's going to bring it into the game. But I guess (Saturday) was the day."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath said he'd seen an increased involvement for Hill in recent practices.

So, Hill's success didn't surprise him.

"They like that little lob play right now," Heath said. "(Steven's) so athletic, and he's got such good size, that you just have to pop it up there. He's the only one that'll get to the ball if you put it 11, 12 feet into the air."

As the game progressed, the Hogs continued to find Hill.

Gary Ervin lofted him a 35-foot alley-oop. Weems tossed him an alley-oop and threaded a perfect bounce-pass to him for a dunk. His seven emphatic slams always ignited a loud response from the Bud Walton Arena faithful.

"They gave us a huge energy lift," Heath said. "When that happens, the crowd really gets into it. His teammates see that and get excited about it. Then, the bounce in our step defensively is better."

Eventually, LSU had to pay Hill more attention. And when the Tigers did, Hill found open teammates. Facing a double-team, Hill fired a pass to Weems for a 3-pointer that extended Arkansas' lead to 64-49 during a crucial stint of the second half.

Arkansas, as a whole, mirrored that unselfishness. Six Razorbacks scored at least nine points, and the Hogs recorded 19 assists, their fourth-highest total of the season.

"We can't be selfish and expect to win in the SEC," Weems said. "That's not what a team is. We just wanted to distribute the ball between each other."

That becomes so much easier with Hill flying at defenses from all sides, ready to dunk at any time. It's a side of Hill that Heath hopes is here to stay, especially with key contests approaching at South Carolina and Alabama.

"He looked like one of the premier players in our league," Heath said. "He was everywhere. We've got to take the big fella on the road like that."

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