State Of The Hogs: Minute by Minute

Saturday will mark the fifth regular season matchup between Arkansas and Kentucky since Stan Heath has been basketball coach in the Ozarks. The best news is that it probably will be the first time in Bud Walton Arena that his best players don't ask for a break five minutes into the second half in this series.

I remember the first time Heath went against Tubby Smith's Kentucky team in Bud Walton. It was in Heath's first year and just four minutes into the second half all five UA starters patted their heads, then Heath's sign to the bench for a break.

It happened during a stop for a foul shot. Heath saw them. He acted like he didn't, quickly turning to look the other direction toward something in the bench area. It was obvious he wanted them to try to play through their perceived fatigue. They didn't and the Hogs soon fell hopelessly behind after what had been a solid start to the second half.

Two years ago when the UK-UA series returned to Bud Walton, I watched in amazement again when Ronnie Brewer, the Hogs' top man, raised his hand after just a few minutes had ticked off the second-half clock. Heath ignored Brewer and the slender guard continued to grab at his shorts for the next few trips down the court until he caught his second wind.

Reminded of those two games and the way the second half started, Heath smiled and nodded his head in confirmation.

"You got it right," he said. "But I will say that sometimes if you are really juiced up for a big game and the emotions are really flowing, someone might need a blow two or three minutes into a game or a half."

Will it happen Saturday when the Wildcats and Hogs meet again in Bud Walton?

"I don't think that will happen in this game, though," he said.

It's not because Heath's top guns won't be juiced. Listening to Patrick Beverley and the other starters talk Thursday, it was clear they will be pumped for the Wildcats. It's just that they are not the kind of players to ask to come out of a game, especially a big one.

"I haven't seen Pat or Sonny ask to come out yet," Heath said. "I don't think they will in this game."

It's a safe bet. Beverley is averaging 37 minutes in SEC play, Weems 34. UK coach Tubby Smith plays his top guns similar big minutes. Ramel Bradley averages 35 minutes and Joe Crawford 34.

Beverley might average 39 if not for a couple of times he got in foul trouble. He's played 39 two of the last three outings. He went all 40 minutes in road games against Texas and Florida.

"He doesn't get tired," said UA assistant Oronde Taliaferro. "I saw him play a bunch of games in high school. I never saw him come out of a game. And, he plays at both ends. You see some guys play a lot of minutes and they rest on one end or the other. Not Pat. He plays hard and with emotion."

Beverley can't remember asking to come out of a game.

"I'm in good shape," he said. "Our coaches got us in shape this fall. No reason to come out."

Heath worries that some of his perimeter guys are logging too many minutes. Along with Beverley and Weems, point guard Gary Ervin has been playing big minutes of late, too. So has center Steven Hill.

"I know at some point, we will hit the wall, so I've got to get some of them some rest," he said. "It is a concern. Hopefully, having this break this week (without a mid-week game) will help us."

Beverley doesn't care. He'd just as soon play a game every night. Most freshmen guards lose weight during their first year of college. Not Beverley.

"I'm 11 pounds heavier since I came here," he said. "We eat good food and we take care of our bodies. I am fine. I'm not wearing down. I just want to keep playing games."

That's the passion and enthusiasm for the game that Heath loves. His only problem is making sure Beverley's high fives as he runs by the bench don't knock the coach down.

Beverley routinely slaps hands with coaches and teammates who are not on the court as he heads the other way during games. He swatted Heath on the butt during the LSU game.

"I don't remember that, but I don't doubt it," Heath said. "He's energetic. He is just so fiery. I'll just say that he didn't hurt me and that's not the first time a player gave me a love tap."

Beverley remembers hitting his coach.

"It was just in the heat of the moment and I wanted people to see the way I love my coach," he said. "I came here because of him. He has taught me so much. I spend a lot of time with him, both on the phone or at his home. He is making me a man and teaching me lessons and I want to show that I care for him. He's a coach, a friend and a father figure altogether.

"I look up to Coach Heath. I hope what I'm doing on the court is a reflection of what he has been teaching me.

"When I do something like that, I'm having fun and it's just a way to relieve some positive stress during the game."

It's that kind of positive energy that has caught on with two key junior recruits, both of whom will be at the game Saturday. Willie Warren of Fort Worth, Texas, and Rotnei Clarke of Verdigris, Okla., repeatedly tell Hawgs Illustrated recruiting writer Dudley Dawson they have the UA high on their list because of Beverley.

Beverley knows Bud Walton Arena is going to be rocking Saturday. He expects the biggest crowd of the season.

"I know our fans are excited about this one," he said. "This is a bigger (name) team and our fans will be up. The other thing that happens when we play a bigger (name) team, it seems our team plays better. Don't ask me why, but for some odd reason we play better against teams like Kentucky. I think everyone on our team knows it."

Beverley knows about Kentucky tradition. One of his favorite movies is Glory Road, which features Texas-El Paso's victory over the Wildcats in the national title game.

"I watched all of Kentucky's games as a young child," he said. "It's good to play one of the top teams as far as tradition."

Patrick Beverley doesn't want to miss a single minute of it.

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CLAY HENRY IS THE PUBLISHER OF HAWGS ILLUSTRATED, A STEPHENS MEDIA GROUP PUBLICATION. HIS COLUMN APPEARS EACH FRIDAY. E-MAIL: CLAY@NWAONLINE.NET






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