By Ryan Malashock
The Morning News
Charles Thomas drew a charge, giving the Hogs possession with just under five minutes left, right after Darian Townes had tied the contest at 56.
Briefly, the Razorbacks' first road victory of the season seemed a distinct possibility.
But then, Arkansas went cold offensively in the Colonial Center. Real cold. Two turnovers and seven missed shots later, the Gamecocks had wrapped up road defeat No. 5 for Arkansas.
"I thought they were good shots (we were taking)," Heath said. "We had some wide-open 3s. We had some layups. We had really good shots, shots we've been making throughout the season. I really expected us to make some of those shots."
The Razorbacks didn't, though, failing to capitalize on an opportunity to leap into a first-place tie in the Southeastern Conference Western Division alongside Auburn. Instead, Arkansas (13-7, 2-4 SEC) heads into a 2:05 p.m. game Saturday at Alabama (15-4, 2-3) as the wild West's last-place team.
The five-minute, 20-second stretch after Townes' game-tying three-point play pretty much summed up Arkansas' road difficulties this season.
It's not as if the Razorbacks totally struggle on the road. They nearly beat Texas, nearly conquered top-ranked Florida and almost stole an ugly victory at Ole Miss. They just haven't produced any semblance of consistency away from Bud Walton Arena.
They seem to always experience at least one lull like Wednesday's late-game scoring drought.
Arkansas forward Sonny Weems somewhat disputed Heath's account of the seven crucial possessions against South Carolina.
"We just didn't run what our coaches wanted us to run," Weems said. "We didn't execute plays. Coach (Heath) gave us the game plan, and we just didn't execute."
Heath might argue with that point. Every one of the seven consecutive shots Arkansas missed, Heath classified as a quality attempt.
Patrick Beverley's 3-point miss, which rattled in and out, started the scoreless streak. Townes botched a layup and, after a Weems rebound, missed an open 6-footer. Ervin bricked an unguarded 3-point attempt as the shot clock wound down. After a timeout, during which Heath drew up a play, Ervin had a layup attempt blocked and Townes bungled a 2-footer.
"I think (Darian) hurried (his) shots," Heath said. "Those were all some plays we wish we could've had back."
On the next possession, Vincent Hunter's pass went through Preston Cranford's hands and out of bounds. By the time Ervin missed another 3-point attempt, the outcome already had been decided.
In Heath's mind, Arkansas' offensive start was just as costly as its finish. Plus, the Hogs failed to score during the final 3:17 of the first half.
"We started the game out and had three or four layups on transition, and we got two points out of that," Heath said. "We had some careless passes. We weren't very strong with the ball.
Just like Arkansas' tendency to lack consistency on the road.
On whether the Hogs tried to coax a fifth foul from South Carolina guard Tre' Kelley, who picked up his fourth with 8:27 left Wednesday night:
"We were aware he had his fourth foul. We were playing our game and anytime we knew we had opportunities to get a charge or drive at him, we wanted to do that. But it didn't work out that way. He was smart."
On Arkansas' repeated poor performances on the road and against less talented teams:
"I don't know, man. On the road, we just don't play the same. I don't know. Also, when we see a number behind the team, when they're ranked, we seem to act different, with different intensity. I don't know what's wrong."
On where the Razorbacks' mindset must be heading into Saturday's game at Alabama:
"We have to treat every game like it's a home game. We've got to look at ourselves in the mirror and just come out hard. I mean, everbody's just upset. We lost to a team that was 0-4 (in the Southeastern Conference).
ARKANSAS AT NO. 12 ALABAMA
WHEN: 2:05 p.m. TV: KHOG (Ch. 7)
WHERE: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
RECORDS: Arkansas 13-7, 2-4 Southeastern Conference; Alabama 15-4, 2-3
RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3
COACHES: Arkansas, Stan Heath (74-64, 5th season; 104-70 overall, 6 seasons); Alabama, Mark Gottfried (158-86, 8th season; 226-110 overall, 11 seasons)
SERIES: Arkansas leads 23-20 (Arkansas is 11-5 in Fayetteville)
LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 88-61 on Jan. 6, 2007, in Fayetteville
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