All After Halftime

FAYETTEVILLE — Sitting in a chair in Arkansas' locker room, Gary Ervin heard the loud groans within Bud Walton Arena and knew immediately. He was still scoreless.

His half-court heave as the first half of Arkansas' 65-57 victory ended appeared to catapult Arkansas into a tie with Auburn. But the referees, after a lengthy review Wednesday night, determined his 3-pointer didn't beat the buzzer after all.

Ervin didn't care, even after hearing the bellows from the announced crowd of 16,952. Arkansas' junior point guard simply acted like the fling had counted, using it as momentum to spur his second-half effort.

"It still gave me a boost," Ervin said. "I was just trying to be more aggressive in the second half.

"I just thought our team needed a boost."

Following a sluggish opening 20 minutes, Ervin provided a spark when the Razorbacks desperately needed one. Ervin scored all 18 of his points after halftime, tying his season high by draining outside shots and attacking the basket.

The 6-foot transfer from Mississippi State fueled a 16-4 second-half spurt that helped Arkansas improve to 15-8 overall and 4-5 in the Southeastern Conference. His unusual scoring outburst allowed the Razorbacks to pull out a victory without playing their best basketball.

"He certainly was a lightning bolt out there for us," Heath said.

Arkansas trailed 31-26 early in the second half but led 42-35 just more than five minutes later once Ervin started to heat up.

Ervin said he didn't consciously force shots. He just fired up attempts when the Tigers left him unoccupied.

"They left me open, and I just wanted to knock down those shots and get the team going," Ervin said.

His steal and fast-break layup closed the Auburn (14-11, 4-6) lead to 31-30. He then drained consecutive 3-pointers that put Arkansas up 36-35. The Hogs didn't trail again.

"After that, the basket kind of got big to me," Ervin said.

Later in the half, after he assisted on two Hogs baskets, Ervin produced three more timely buckets.

He drove into the lane, brushing off contact from two taller Tigers, and dropped in a layup. He gave Frank Tolbert a head-fake, dribbled once to his left and nailed a 16-footer. And he darted down court after an Auburn basket, catching the Tigers off-guard, and scored on a goal-tending call on Tolbert.

Each score was important, the final one giving Arkansas a 58-51 lead. Each score reminded Arkansas forward Charles Thomas of the old days, when he and Ervin dueled on the AAU circuit.

"I've seen that numerous times," Thomas said. "More times than I care to remember."

Ervin recalled other memories, like those from his prep-school days at Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass. Then, he averaged 17 points per game and even tallied 41 once for a career high.

He no longer considers himself a scorer, though. Ervin prefers to create for others.

But for 20 minutes Wednesday, he ignored those feelings.

"It just came with confidence," Ervin said. "After I hit the first few, I just felt it. I do whatever it takes to help this team win and, in this game, that meant scoring a bunch in the second half."

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