Mistakes Prove Costly

FAYETTEVILLE — Two days before his Razorbacks lost 82-74 to Kentucky, Arkansas coach Stan Heath uttered what unfortunately became a prophetic statement.

He had so many reasons to brag about his Hogs, who squandered an oppportunity Saturday to tie Alabama for first place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. And he knew only one downfall could doom Arkansas. "We're doing so many things well," Heath said at his Thursday press conference. "We shoot the ball well. We're one of the top four teams in the league in shooting, free throws, and field goal defense, and our rebounding has improved. "It would be a shame if we can't clean up our turnovers." Heath's worst nightmare came true during just the second loss of the season for Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena. When the Razorbacks successfully initiated their offense or executed fast breaks, they converted with ease. Their 54.9 field-goal percentage represented the Hogs' third-highest output, just behind percentages in victories over Southeast Missouri State (57.1) and Oakland (55.6). But Arkansas didn't get into its offense often enough, the result of 19 turnovers. Silly passes, charging fouls and lazy ball-handling all contributed to Arkansas exceeding 14 turnovers for the sixth consecutive game. "It seemed like the pressure hurt us," Arkansas center Steven Hill said. "We can't have those lapses. And I'm not just talking about the guards. The post guys need to handle it better, as well." Most of the Razorbacks played a part in the binge of miscues. Every player but Vincent Hunter committed a turnover. Sonny Weems had his third straight game with five. Patrick Beverley had four. Hill had three, and Gary Ervin and Darian Townes each had two. Eight first-half turnovers kept Arkansas from building more than just a five-point halftime lead. And then, Kentucky appeared to shock the Razorbacks with a full-court press early in the second half. That decision by coach Tubby Smith buoyed Kentucky's comeback. "We were prepared for (their press) in practice," Beverley said. "But they hadn't thrown the press on the whole game, and it just surprised us. "It was all about staying focused and we lacked that as a team." The Razorbacks seemed focused when shooting, though. They drained 14 field goals in each half, rarely settling for low-percentage shots until midway through the second half. They nailed 10 of 21 from 3-point range. And they received a career-high 13 points from freshman Stefan Welsh. But Arkansas did not have enough possessions. Heath couldn't help but think of his Thursday statement when glancing at the statistics sheet after Saturday's contest. "You look at these stats, you'd think we leave here with a win," Heath said.

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