Time To Get Tough

FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas' coaches brought the pads back out Thursday afternoon, a day after they painfully watched their team get outworked and outmuscled at South Carolina.

Ole Miss equally battered and bruised the Razorback forwards and centers on Arkansas' previous road trip, and coach Stan Heath had seen enough.

So, with his Hogs facing a pivotal 2:05 p.m. test today at Alabama, he called on the blocking dummies, the type of pads Darren McFadden fights off at practice.

"Our defensive rebounding hurt us in (the last two road games)," Heath said. "We gave up a lot of extra opportunities. We were in position but we weren't as physical as we needed to be in the paint."

The Razorbacks (13-7, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) get no reprieve from physicality today in Coleman Coliseum against No. 12 Alabama (15-4, 2-3).

Alabama starts 6-foot-8, 265-pound power forward Richard Hendrix and athletic 6-6 small forward Alonzo Gee alongside wiry 6-10 center Jermareo Davidson.

Collectively, the Crimson Tide pose more of a rebounding threat than Ole Miss and South Carolina. A bit scary, considering Arkansas couldn't even stop Ole Miss' Dwayne Curtis (20 points, 12 rebounds) and South Carolina's Brandon Wallace (13 rebounds).

"It comes down to just wanting the ball," said Arkansas center Steven Hill, who grabbed just one rebound Wednesday in Columbia, S.C. "We've got to be hungry for it every time we go out and really just go after it. We've really got to want the ball. It starts with our heart and we really didn't show a lot of that (against South Carolina)."

Rebounding, in actuality, has been a strength this season for Arkansas, making the Hogs' recent troubles more frustrating to Heath.

Arkansas outrebounded its opponents in its first seven games and has grabbed more total rebounds in every one of its seven losses.

"It's one of things that hasn't been a sore spot through the season," Heath said. "In that one particular game, one guy tore us up and that was Wallace who had 10 (offensive rebounds)."

But those defeats, like those at Ole Miss and South Carolina, included major lapses in rebounding. Wallace had 10 of his rebounds Wednesday after halftime. Curtis had nine before halftime at Ole Miss.

Mainly, Heath clamors for his post players to form an attitude such as the one described by Hill.

Only one Razorback, Charles Thomas, averages more than five rebounds per game. Heck, a shooting guard, Patrick Beverley, ranks second in rebounding.

With a 7-footer (Hill), two 6-10 forwards (Darian Townes and Vincent Hunter) and a 6-8 forward (Thomas) in the rotation, Heath expects more rebounding production -- and physicality -- from his post players.

If they don't produce, if they can't exhibit the same fight and intensity they show in Bud Walton Arena, they can expect more pounding from the blocking dummies.

"As disappointed as we are, we're not out of this race (for the Western Division)," Heath said. "The first thing we've got to do is lose this Jeckyl and Hyde mentality and find a way to be the same team we are at home on the road. That's going to take every single guy and coaching staff to step everything up."

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