Arkansas at LSU

Both times, Sonny Weems genuinely felt like the Arkansas Razorbacks were about to rip off a winning streak.

The Hogs' first chance came after they drilled LSU by 20 points on Jan. 20 in Fayetteville. Their second followed the Razorbacks' first road victory of the season, a six-point win on Jan. 27 at Alabama.

But the Razorbacks failed to build momentum off each of those victories. They floundered at South Carolina after the first, and they blew a 14-point second-half lead to Kentucky after the second.

Time to string wins together is running out, and Arkansas (15-8, 4-5) sees today's 2:05 p.m. contest at LSU (13-10, 2-7) as an opportunity that can't be missed.

"Two wins in a row would be a big boost for us," Weems said. "It would boost everybody's confidence up. We need to get on a roll to get where we want to get. It's been awhile."

Thirty-five days, to be exact.

The Razorbacks last won consecutive games on Jan. 6, when the Hogs' 27-point home rout of Alabama gave them their fourth straight victory. Since then, Arkansas has lost five of its last eight contests.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath said he saw similarities between last year's victory over Florida, which sparked a five-game winning streak, and today's game in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Then, the Hogs needed a spark, a statement victory to spur a late-season run to the NCAA Tournament. Now, they need the same kind of performance.

"I'm fired up," Heath said. "I do think in a lot of ways this could be the game that could really turn it for us and get us over the hump. This is a big momentum game for us. I sense it, and the players sense it."

The Tigers sense it, as well. LSU may, in fact, need a victory far more than the Razorbacks.

LSU can pretty much call it a season with a loss today, a defeat that would extend its losing streak to seven.

"If there was ever a time for a team to get a win it's ours and it's now," LSU coach John Brady said. "Our team is in a difficult spot to accomplish anything significant."

Arkansas is in position, though.

Only one game behind Alabama in the Southeastern Conference Western Division standings, Arkansas could even its SEC mark at 5-5 with a victory.

Unfortunately, the Hogs must travel to a place that provides heartbreaking memories to get it.

The Razorbacks led in the final moments of their last two trips to Baton Rouge. Two years ago, they lost by three points in overtime. Last year, they fell by one.

Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin recalled last season's defeat, in which he watched at home and called and text-messaged back and forth with Sonny Weems. He felt awful that day.

But Ervin said he expects different emotions today.

"We need this momentum, more than ever," Ervin said.



WHEN: 2:05 p.m. TV: KHOG (Ch. 7)

WHERE: Pete Maravich Assembly Center

RECORDS: Arkansas 15-8, 4-5 Southeastern Conference; LSU 13-10, 2-7

RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3

COACHES: Arkansas, Stan Heath (76-65, 5th season; 106-71 overall, 6 seasons); LSU, John Brady, (180-121, 10th season; 269-198 overall, 16 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 26-17 (The Razorbacks' last won in Baton Rouge in 2001)

LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 72-52 on Jan. 20, 2007, in Fayetteville



* COACH: Stan Heath (fifth season)

* LAST TIME OUT: Arkansas beat Auburn 65-57 on Feb. 7 in Fayetteville

* KEY INJURIES: C Steven Hill, second-degree left hamstring pull, questionable; F Charles Thomas, partially dislocated right shoulder, probable



Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG

G Gary Ervin 6-0 Junior 9.3 3.6

G Patrick Beverley 6-1 Freshman 14.0 4.6

C Darian Townes 6-10 Junior 8.3 4.0

F Charles Thomas 6-8 Junior 11.8 5.4

F Sonny Weems 6-6 Junior 11.6 4.8


C Steven Hill 7-0 Junior 6.8 4.4

F Vincent Hunter 6-10 Junior 3.9 2.1

G Stefan Welsh 6-2 Freshman 3.1 0.8

LSU TIGERS (13-10, 2-7)


* COACH: John Brady (10th season)

* LAST TIME OUT: LSU lost to Tennessee 70-67 on Feb. 6 in Knoxville




Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG

G Garrett Temple 6-5 Sophomore 9.1 3.1

G Dameon Mason 6-6 Junior 5.9 3.0

F Magnum Rolle 6-10 Sophomore 3.6 4.4

F Glen Davis 6-9 Junior 17.9 10.4

F Tasmin Mitchell 6-7 Sophomore 14.0 6.3


G Terry Martin 6-6 Sophomore 11.0 2.5

C Chris Johnson 6-11 Sophomore 3.4 1.6

F Darnell Lazare 6-8 Senior 6.2 4.0



6-7 * Sophomore * Denham Springs, La.

As a freshman, Mitchell played an integral role in getting LSU back to the Final Four for the first time in 20 years. During that season, the 235-pounder spent most of his time close to the bucket.

Things have changed now for Mitchell.

LSU coach John Brady moved Mitchell to the perimeter, starting him at the small forward position for most of this season. While the transition has not been easy, Mitchell has shown glimpses of dominance.

His effort Tuesday night at Tennessee fits into that category. He tied a career-high with 23 points in the Tigers' three-point defeat in Knoxville.

"Basically, he's a matchup problem," Arkansas forward Charles Thomas said. "If you don't put the right person on him, you can be in trouble."


Arkansas coach Stan Heath hopes Sonny Weems is that right person.

The Hogs' 6-6 small forward always seems to draw a difficult defensive assignment, and today is no different.

"I just plan on pressuring him tight," Weems said. "I've got to always know where he is. He can hurt you in so many different ways, especially with offensive rebounding."

Not allowing Mitchell to get into his comfort zone is the key to limiting him.

At heart, Mitchell is still a post player. He still has those tendencies. So Weems must keep Mitchell out on the perimeter and must be sure to block him off on every rebound attempt.


Mitchell's game, in fact, is a lot like that of Weems.

He's most comfortable when slashing to the basket and shooting mid-range jumpers.

But this season, in particular, Mitchell has improved his outside game, bettering his ball-handling and long-range shooting.

In Southeastern Conference play, Mitchell is the Tigers' second-leading scorer at 13.9 points per game. His 5.1 rebounds per game also rank second.

"He can play inside. He can play outside," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "I see him taking it to the basket a little more than he used to, and he's great on the offensive boards."


LSU coach John Brady loves Mitchell's potential, cherishes his work ethic.

But he'd still like to see Mitchell produce on a more regular basis.

Mitchell also still has a long way to go regarding his outside game. He has drained only seven of his 28 3-point attempts during conference play.

His assist-to-turnover ratio is negative, and he only has three blocked shots in nine conference games.

"I'd prefer for Tasmin to get 14 to 16 (points) a night -- not 23, then seven the next night," Brady said. "Our biggest problem, as a team and with Tasmin, is consistency."


If the inconsistent Mitchell shows up today to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, LSU likely will drop its seventh straight game. If the player who dominated Tuesday night at Tennessee shows, though, expect a tight contest.

All season long, Brady has pleaded with Mitchell to not get frustrated, to not get deterred when things go wrong.

How Mitchell handles adversity today should dictate whether LSU keeps Arkansas from evening up its SEC record.

"We just need to frustrate him," Weems said. "If we can get in his head a bit, get physical with him, we could be able to stop him."




Arkansas forward Charles Thomas said the student section in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center is among the most rowdy in the Southeastern Conference.

That didn't matter last season.

"We got off to a great start and took the students out of the game early last year," Thomas said. "That student section is pretty crazy, though. They're right there on top of you, and I could see how some people could get rattled."

The Hogs must do the same today, limiting turnovers, taking high-percentage shots and exhibiting defensive intensity in the opening minutes.


With 7-foot center Steven Hill limited, at the least, and possibly out, Arkansas coach Stan Heath may call on more post players today than he has all season.

Hill is averaging 26.8 minutes per game. That's a lot of minutes to fill if Hill can't go.

Heath didn't play his three 6-foot-10 reserves Wednesday night. But today, the entire trio could see action.

"All the other guys have to be ready," Heath said. "Darian Townes has to be ready. So does Michael Washington, Vincent Hunter and Cyrus McGowan."


LSU has one main 3-point threat -- 6-foot-6 transfer Terry Martin.

Martin is the only Tiger logging regular playing time with a 3-point percentage higher than 31.6.

In nine conference games, Martin has nailed 22 of his 51 3-point attempts for a 43.1 percentage.

If Arkansas plays zone today, which Heath alluded to, the Hogs must locate Martin.

"He's an x-factor guy, a wild-card guy," Heath said. "When he's shooting it well, it opens up the court for the rest of their players."


Even during the Tigers' six-game losing streak, LSU forward Glen Davis has put up gaudy numbers.

In SEC play, Davis leads the conference in rebounding at 10.2 per game and ranks among the scoring leaders with 15.4 points per game.

Thomas draws the opening assignment on Davis, and he said he'd remember his previous experience of guarding him.

"I've faced him a lot," Thomas said. "I can even remember guarding him in AAU ball. It won't be easy. I know that. He's tough, and he's fast, even when he has the ball."


Tack Minor was dismissed from the team earlier this season, and Garrett Temple has experienced difficulty throughout his transition from shooting guard to point guard.

Temple has just 41 assists in nine conference games, ranking him second-to-last among SEC point guards. Martin and backup point guard Dameon Mason have combined for 18 assists and 32 turnovers in conference play.

"Our guards have been slacking a bit defensively, in my mind," Arkansas freshman Patrick Beverley said. "If we step it up, I think we can force a bunch of turnovers."


Hawgs Daily Top Stories