Fighting Off The Wolves

Things are not going as planned for Arkansas (15-10, 4-7) as it heads down the stretch in SEC action with postseason hopes slipping away.

Having three of your players out past curfew with the opposing team's star player and having to bench them, not bringing your defense on the road and falling to 4-7 in SEC play is not the recipe for a happy ending.

But that's exactly what University of Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath is dealing with as his Razorbacks (15-10, 4-7) prepare to host SEC Western Division-leading Ole Miss (17-9, 6-5) Saturday afternoon at 4:06 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena.

Heath, in his fifth season at the UA, knows the wolves are howling after a 24-point blowout at Mississippi State on Wednesday night, but says he can't worry about that right now.

"It (his mindset) is totally on this game and not dwelling on the past," Heath said. "It is always a challenge for a coach when they win consecutive games and all of a sudden they lose a little bit of the edge or the reverse part – you lose a few games and suddenly you lose your confidence.

"It's always – we have got to play the next game," Heath added. "We have to make corrections from the past, but we can't dwell on that. That is where we are right now."

Heath spent much more time in the locker room than usual after Wednesday night's loss before coming out to do his radio show. He explained that his team was having a heart-to-heart talk and expanded on that at his Thursday press conference.

"More than anything I wanted to hear what the players had to say, just to get some feedback from them on what they felt," Heath said. "I just wanted to know where their hearts were and what they felt they could do during the stretch run to change the course right now. I felt everybody in the room was 100 percent we are going to fight, 100 percent we are going to stay together, 100 percent we are going to try and get better."

Heath said success on Saturday is more about his team and not who the opponent is.

"All the guys are searching for answers, and it's us," Heath said. "We need to be consistent on offense and cut down on turnovers. It starts with practice and giving great effort. We're hungry to get a win. It doesn't matter who we're playing."

Arkansas opened the Mississippi State game with starters Gary Ervin and Sonny Weems on the bench and Heath learned they and freshmen guard Stefan Welsh were out with LSU star Glen Davis after curfew last Friday night.

"They were suspended the minute I found out," Heath said. "That was right after the (LSU) game."

Heath is undecided if Ervin and Weems will return to the starting lineup on Saturday.

"That will be determined in practice the next couple of days," Heath said.

Arkansas was in a 5-6 hole at this point last season only to win its last five regular season games to make the NCAA Tournament.

How did that happen and what can be done for it to happen again?

"You want the honest answer?" Heath asked. "I think Ronnie (Brewer) and Pookie (Modica) had a lot to do with that – the end run. Probably the best thing that could happen for us would be for a couple of guys to raise their level. Outside of yesterday's game, everything has been very close. It really comes down to some guys stepping up toward the end and the team stepping up."

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