Getting Back On The Boards

Blunt, quick to the point, Arkansas coach Stan Heath issued a sobering assessment at his Thursday news conference.

"Rebounding from (the Auburn game) was atrocious," Heath said. "That will be addressed hard in practice."

The effectiveness of those rebounding exercises could decide Arkansas' must-win game against Tennessee at 12:05 p.m. today in Bud Walton Arena.

With a 5-8 record in the Southeastern Conference, Arkansas (16-11) must sweep its final three games for a realistic shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large berth.

And that run starts against a Volunteers (19-9, 7-6) team that could present the same type of problems Auburn did.

The Tigers were able to gain second- and third-chance opportunities because of their guards' ability to snag offensive rebounds. They finished with 18 offensive rebounds, 13 in the first half.

Auburn's Frank Tolbert, at 6-foot-4, and Quantez Robertson, at 6-3, were able to roam free while Arkansas' guards failed to box out.

"The size factor wasn't the thing," Heath said. "The quickness factor was the thing and not getting to somebody and putting a body on someone before they could get to the shot."

Once again, Arkansas faces an opponent that doesn't necessarily match up to its frontline but does pose issues for its backcourt.

Tennessee is tied with Auburn for fourth in the SEC in offensive rebounds during conference play, primarily because of its athleticism.

In conference play, seven different Volunteers average at least one offensive rebound per game. Included in that figure are 6-foot-4 forward Dane Bradshaw and 6-2 guards JaJuan Smith and Ramar Smith.

Plus, Tennessee's post players, such as 6-9 freshman Wayne Chism and 6-7 freshman Duke Crews, are a lot like Auburn's, in that they're agile, quick and explosive.

Earlier this season, Arkansas suffered through a spell of lazy rebounding.

Then, Heath beat up his big men with hand-held blocking dummies, trying to toughen them up. Arkansas' practices were closed, but it's likely Heath expanded that drill to include his guards.

After Wednesday's game, Heath said undersized guards Gary Ervin (6-foot), Patrick Beverley (6-1), Sean McCurdy (6-1) and Stefan Welsh (6-2) needed vast improvement.

Only Beverley (4.3) is averaging more than 3.5 rebounds per game among Arkansas' guards.

"They were just flying in from all spots," Heath said. "So our guards, didn't do a good job of putting a body on their man."

That won't be easy today against Tennessee, which has recorded six straight games with double-digit figures in offensive rebounding.

"We just have to box out," Ervin said. "It's just stuff in practice that we need to work on like boxing out to make us a better rebounding team."



TODAY'S TICKET

TENNESSEE AT ARKANSAS

WHEN: 12:05 p.m. TV: KHOG (Cable channel 7)

WHERE: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

RECORDS: Tennessee, 19-9, 7-6 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas, 16-11, 5-8

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: Tennessee, Bruce Pearl (41-17, 2nd season; 358-101, 16 seasons); Arkansas, Stan Heath (77-68, 5th season; 107-74 overall, 6 seasons)

SERIES: Tied 11-11 (Arkansas leads 5-2 in Fayetteville)

LAST MEETING: Arkansas won 73-69 on Feb. 25, 2006, in Knoxville, Tenn.



Another Test On The Boards

Arkansas allowed 18 offensive rebounds in its eight-point loss Wednesday night at Auburn.

Tennessee's Offensive Rebounding In The Last Six Games:

Date Opponent Offensive Rebounds

Feb. 3 at Florida 12

Feb. 6 LSU 15

Feb. 10 Vanderbilt 14

Feb. 13 Kentucky 13

Feb. 17 at South Carolina 14

Feb. 21 Alabama 19

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