Hogs Want, Need To Start The Right Way

Gary Ervin leads Arkansas (15-9, 4-6) into an non-televised SEC showdown Wednesday night against his old squad from Mississippi State (13-10, 4-6).

Gary Ervin's take on his two recent second-half scoring explosions was of the glass half-empty variety.

In Arkansas' past two games, Ervin has gone scoreless in the first half. In a home win last Wednesday over Auburn, Ervin tied a season high with 18 points in the second half. In Saturday's loss at LSU, he tallied 16 in the final 20 minutes.

But Ervin didn't necessarily note the positives of such occurrences. He stressed the negative.

"I just promised myself I'm not going to wait until the second half to be aggressive," Ervin said. "(Four) games ago, we got off to a quick start at Alabama and never looked back. If we get off to a quick start, we're a better team."

All of Ervin's teammates should take notice of their junior point guard's ultimatum.

With a pivotal 7 p.m. game tonight at Mississippi State's Humphrey Coliseum, Ervin said Arkansas needs to realize the importance of the contest's opening moments.

The Hogs are 1-6 on the road this season, the only victory being Arkansas' Jan. 27 win at Alabama in which the Hogs started quickly, as Ervin alluded. In the other half-dozen games, Arkansas has dug deficits and waited until the second half to mount rallies.

That's no longer an option, said Arkansas coach Stan Heath.

"In my tenure, the start of (games at Mississippi State) has been a big factor in the outcome," Heath said. "We have to get off to a great start in this game. We've got to turn some things around quickly."

Heath and players alike refused to say that a bad approach related to the Razorbacks' poor road mark, which is 1-4 in Southeastern Conference games.

Nothing about the Razorbacks' pregame rituals requires changing, Heath said.

But, one of Arkansas' freshmen has noticed a lack of concentration.

"We need better focus, I think," Patrick Beverley said. "We need to get a good sweat in warmups."

To Heath, the problem is mental toughness.

"We just want to make sure we get good shots, that we not give up momentum plays, turnover plays, and then make sure we work our butts off defensively," Heath said. "It comes down to the same things on the road."

In five of the six road losses, including every SEC road defeat, the Razorbacks stormed back to take the lead. Those comebacks proved they could've won those games.

They all know, though, that they must decide to flick on the focus switch much earlier tonight. Like, right before the opening tip.

Because at 4-6 in the SEC, every loss puts an increasingly bigger blemish on Arkansas' NCAA Tournament resume.

"It's very hard," Beverley said. "As a freshman, you really don't get used to losing. We've got to play like a tournament team right now. I think everyone knows we need (to win) 90 to 95 percent of these (remaining) games."



TODAY'S TICKET

ARKANSAS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

WHEN: 7 p.m. TV: None

WHERE: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.

RECORDS: Mississippi State 13-10, 4-6 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas 15-9, 4-6

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 (76-66, 5th season; 106-72 overall, 6 seasons); Mississippi State, Rick Stansbury, (177-100, ninth season; 177-100, 9 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 23-17 (Mississippi State leads 13-5 in Starkville)

LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 80-70 on Mar. 1, 2006, in Fayetteville



Slow Starts Stifle Hogs

Arkansas is 1-6 on the road this season. In each of those losses, the Razorbacks fell behind in the first half. In Arkansas lone win, at Alabama, the Hogs stormed out to quick double-digit lead.

Date Opponent Score Arkansas Fell Behind By

Nov. 30 Missouri 44-28

Dec. 20 Texas 19-9

Jan. 9 Florida 18-8

Jan. 13 Ole Miss 34-24

Jan. 24 South Carolina 12-5

Feb. 10 LSU 17-6

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