Super Saturday

FAYETTEVILLE -- Sonny Weems doesn't care for history, especially concerning school, but even regarding the sport he plays.

Ask him who won college basketball's national championship in 1994. He needs a few moments to gather his thoughts before skeptically declaring, "Arkansas?"

That said, with Kentucky coming to Bud Walton Arena for a 12:05 p.m. game today, Weems had little to offer about the Razorback-Wildcat rivalry.

Actually, make that nothing.

"I have no idea about the history of it," Weems said. "No clue."

Arkansas' fans and most Razorback players and coaches know better.

For a brief period, Arkansas vs. Kentucky was about as big as it could get around Fayetteville and Lexington.

In the schools' first seven contests after Arkansas entered the Southeastern Conference, both teams were ranked. The game even served as the appetizer for football's main course on Super Bowl Sunday for several years.

And for those who long for those days, who remember the duels between Nolan Richardson and Rick Pitino, Arkansas coach Stan Heath has a message.

"I do think that it's coming back because both teams again are competitive toward each other," Heath said. "There's a mutual respect between the opponents -- fans, coaches and players. Some of that reaches back into the (1990s). It's always a great, intense game. They definitely have the edge."

Heath hopes that will come to an end today, when he said his Razorbacks could jump-start a dormant series.

"We need to win it to make it a true, true rivalry," Heath said. "That's what's been missing."

Intrigue hasn't been absent in the teams' last two encounters, though.

Two years ago in Fayetteville, a young Razorbacks squad stretched sixth-ranked Kentucky to the limit before losing 68-67. Then, last season in Lexington, the Hogs blew an 18-point first-half lead and fell by two points.

Those players who traveled to Kentucky last January stewed earlier this week about that defeat.

"Oh yeah, this is personal," said Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin, who watched from the Rupp Arena sideline in street clothes. "When you get a chance to be up like that on the road against a team like Kentucky and can't win, it's definitely personal.

"Nobody on this team has beaten Kentucky, so we want it bad."

The Hogs may wish for a boost into first place in the SEC Western Division even more. A victory would level the Hogs' SEC record at 4-4, putting them in prime position to take over the division's top spot.

But to do that, they must get past the school Richardson always credited as Arkansas' main rival -- over longtime Southwest Conference foe Texas.

Heath is winless in his four meetings with Kentucky, and his players realize a win would go a long way to continuing their coach's program-building effort. His Razorbacks also know the largest crowd of the season could witness today's contest. More than 18,000 tickets had been sold by 3 p.m. Friday.

"We know what this win would mean," Ervin said. "And it isn't going to be easy at all. From what I know (about the series), from looking at film, it's always been a tough rivalry. Everybody's always playing hard, and elbowing, basically doing whatever it takes to get a win.

"Plus, we know we hold the West in our hands. And it starts with Kentucky."

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