Fast Break: Arkansas vs. Auburn
* LAST TIME OUT: Arkansas beat Ole Miss 83-66 on Feb. 17 in Fayetteville * KEY INJURIES: G Gary Ervin, flu, probable LINEUPS PROBABLE STARTERS Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG G Sean McCurdy 6-1 Sophomore 2.3 1.0 G Patrick Beverley 6-1 Freshman 14.3 4.5 C Steven Hill 7-0 Junior 6.5 4.5 F Charles Thomas 6-8 Junior 11.8 5.5 F Sonny Weems 6-6 Junior 11.5 4.7 KEY RESERVES G Gary Ervin 6-0 Junior 9.1 3.5 F Darian Townes 6-10 Junior 8.1 4.2 F Vincent Hunter 6-10 Junior 3.6 2.0 AUBURN TIGERS (14-13, 4-8) TEAM GLANCE * COACH: Jeff Lebo (third season) * LAST TIME OUT: Auburn lost to Georgia 86-79 on Feb. 17 in Athens, Ga. * KEY INJURIES: None LINEUPS PROBABLE STARTERS Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG G Quantez Robertson 6-3 Sophomore 8.4 3.9 G Frank Tolbert 6-4 Junior 11.7 4.9 G Rasheem Barrett 6-5 Sophomore 12.0 4.1 F Korvotney Barber 6-7 Sophomore 11.1 6.3 F Josh Dollard 6-7 Sophomore 11.8 7.0 KEY RESERVES F Quan Powell 6-8 Junior 11.5 5.7 G DeWayne Reed 6-1 Freshman 5.2 1.6 G Kelvin Lewis 6-4 Freshman 3.8 0.6 SCOUTING REPORT QUANTEZ ROBERTSON 6-3 * Sophomore * Cincinnati, Ohio Picked to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team last year, Robertson gave Auburn coach Jeff Lebo some high expectations for this season. Robertson has not disappointed. Entering tonight's contest in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, Robertson ranks second in the SEC in assists (5.48 per game) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.43). There's more than just numbers, though. Robertson has no problem with the leadership part of playing point guard, even as a sophomore. "I'm not sure how much Quantez Robertson comes out of their games," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "He runs their team with assists, scoring and guarding. He's one of the best point guards in our league and his numbers reflect that." HOW TO PLAY HIM Patrick Beverley almost didn't believe his eyes when Auburn came to Fayetteville on Feb. 7. On one possession, with Gary Ervin on the bench, Beverley stood two feet away from Robertson and tried to guard him. The first time Robertson touched the ball, he blew right past Beverley. "He's fast," Beverley said. "Real fast." He's also tall, bigger than the normal point guard. At 6-foot-3, Robertson presents several problems for those assigned to check him. Whether it's Beverley, Ervin, Sonny Weems, Sean McCurdy or Stefan Welsh, the Razorback who covers Robertson will need to work tirelessly. "You just can't give up on him," Beverley said. "He's in great shape. He'll take advantage of you if you slack off him." STRENGTHS Sure, Robertson gets a thrill out of dishing a pretty assist. He loves watching a teammate throw down one of his alley-oop passes. But he likes something else even more. Defense. "Right now I am a defensive threat and I try to help the team win that way," Robertson said. "That's going to be my role throughout my junior and senior seasons, I think." His teammate may argue there. They cherish Robertson's defensive efforts. But they also appreciate his offensive contributions. Robertson shoots 38.7 percent from 3-point range and 71.4 percent from the free-throw line in conference play. "Quantez is the guy who gets us going," Auburn's Frank Tolbert said. WEAKNESSES Robertson still doesn't feel like a true point guard, and that shows every once in a while. He still turns the ball over when pressured, and he reverts to taking poor shots at times. "When I was at prep school I didn't handle the ball as much," Robertson said. "Now I am more of a point guard, a scoring point guard at that." Lebo has openly stated that he wished Robertson shot more. In 12 SEC games, Robertson has attempted just 84 shots -- the lowest total for any of Auburn's four consistent starters. "That makes him kind of sneaky," Beverley said. "Just when you think he's not going to shoot, he does." THE SKINNY Lebo saw promise in Robertson immediately. Robertson averaged 10.2 points in helping lead Laurinburg (N.C.) Institute to a perfect 40-0 record and the prep school National Championship in 2004-05. But Auburn's coach didn't exactly see Robertson turning into the player he now has running the point. "He's come a long way," Lebo said. "You have to change the mentality of someone like him. Now, it's interesting. At first, we wanted him to play more like a point guard is supposed to. Now, we're letting him be a little more aggressive, do a little more scoring." -- RYAN MALASHOCK * THE MORNING NEWS GIMME 5 1. TAP INTO SIZE ADVANTAGE Finally, Arkansas' big men are healthy. Well, as close as they've been to fully healthy, at least. Charles Thomas' right shoulder still bugs him a bit. But he said Thursday that the shoulder feels "much better." Steven Hill's left hamstring has healed nicely, and Hill said he was ready to play at full strength tonight. With that duo, and the combination of Darian Townes, Michael Washington and Vincent Hunter, Arkansas could dominate the undersized Auburn frontline. "This is as healthy as we've been, physically and mentally," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "We need to have all our guns going down the stretch." 2. RESPOND TO ADVERSITY Auburn is on a four-game losing streak. But the Tigers won't sport the look of a slumping team tonight in Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum. Auburn plays with far more confidence at home than it does on the road. The Tigers already have knocked off Vanderbilt and Tennessee in Auburn. "We need to go to Auburn prepared to face adversity because of the way they play at home," Heath said. "They can hit you with four or five different players that can score from different spots on the floor. We know it will be tough." 3. OBEY HEATH'S THREE KEYS Arkansas' coach drew up a simple three-point plan Monday when discussing the Razorbacks' task tonight. "We know we have to play good defense, find a way to get the tempo the way we want it and, thirdly, we have to maintain possession of the ball," Heath said. The last point has given Arkansas problems on the road. Every time the Hogs play away from Bud Walton Arena, the turnover bug seems to reappear. "We have to cut down on them big time," Sonny Weems said. 4. GET OUT ON 3-POINTERS The last time Arkansas played Auburn, in the Hogs' 65-57 victory on Feb. 7 in Fayetteville, eight different Tigers attempted a 3-pointer. Expect the same kind of long-distance shooting barrage tonight from Auburn. Since SEC play began, six Tigers are converting at least 35 percent of their 3-point attempts. "We have to find their shooters," Patrick Beverley said. "We know that, at any time, any of their guys can put up 3s. It makes them pretty dangerous." 5. FEED OFF BEVERLEY'S ENERGY The Southeastern Conference released its weekly statistical leaders Monday. And, to no surprise, Beverley's name appeared all over the place. Beverley leads SEC freshmen in scoring, field-goal percentage, steals, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage. "You don't always want your leading player to be a freshman, but he has stepped up in a lot of different areas," Heath said. "He's playing with a fire that is infectious to the rest of the team." -- RYAN MALASHOCK * THE MORNING NEWS
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