Ervin Gets Redemption Against Former Team

FAYETTEVILLE -- Gary Ervin limped into Arkansas' interview room Wednesday night with bag of ice wrapped tightly around his left knee.

It was apparent by the way Ervin was diving for loose balls and attacking the basket that he wanted to beat his former team on his new home floor. The point guard's injured knee was further proof of it.

Ervin had one of his best all-around performances of the season, scoring a team-high 20 points, dishing out seven assists and grabbing six rebounds to help the Razorbacks hang on for a 67-58 win over Mississippi State in Bud Walton Arena.

"I was just hungry for a win. I think it was a team effort," said Ervin, who transferred from Mississippi State after the 2004-05 season. "At the end, I dove for a couple loose balls, but it was a collective effort for us and we felt like we just had to protect home."

Though he didn't come out and say it, Ervin played like he wanted to make amends for his lackluster return to Starkville, Miss., on Feb. 14. The junior was held scoreless in the 84-60 blowout, and to make matters worse, he was booed relentlessly by Bulldog fans.

"It was 360 degrees the other way," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said when describing the difference between Ervin's two games against Mississippi State. "I thought he did a great job of just kind of running the team. ... He made some big plays."

Ervin's most crucial moments came down the stretch with the Razorbacks clinging to a narrow lead. He grabbed a loose ball with two minutes and 15 seconds remaining, and he dove to the floor to grab another loose ball and call a timeout with Arkansas leading 64-58 with 1:26 left.

Ervin scored the final points of the game, sinking a pair of free throws to put a smile on his face and force his former teammates to walk off the floor disappointed.

A Fighter's Mentality

It took a brief melee less than four minutes into the second half to fire up the crowd and get Arkansas' players to finally show some toughness.

With the Razorbacks trailing 36-35, Ervin got fouled hard by Mississippi State guard Charles Rhodes while driving to the basket for a layup with 16:28 remaining. The two players exchanged words before Arkansas center Steven Hill stepped in to defend his point guard.

An altercation broke out with Arkansas coaches trying to contain their players and Hill needing to be held back. Rhodes and Ervin received technical fouls.

"(Rhodes) gave me a hard foul and then bumped me and said some words. Steven said, 'He's not going to let no body talk to his point guard like that,'" Ervin said. "So it was a team effort. If one (player) gets in there, everybody gets in there and I think that's how it's got to be."

The altercation sparked the Razorbacks, who played more aggressively than they had before the incident. They held their own in the paint, dove for loose balls and hustled.

"I thought the turning point in the game was probably when we got into a little scuffle down there on the baseline," Heath said. "I just thought guys kind of just manned up. No punches were thrown or anything like that, but I saw everybody sticking up for their teammate, everybody looking eye-to-eye at the opponent and saying, 'Hey, that's not going to happen. We're not going to back down.'"

Looking For No. 3

Rhodes and center Jamont Gordon gave Mississippi State some much-needed scoring. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they couldn't find a third option.

Gordon scored a game-high 23 points and Rhodes added 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but no other Bulldog player had more than seven points.

That hurt Mississippi State down the stretch. Forward Dietric Slater, playing with a severely injured finger, missed all eight of his shots and his only free-throw attempt to finish with zero points. And guard Reginald Delk went 3-for-9 for only seven points.

"We just needed one guy to jump up and make some shots, extend that lead to four to five to six," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "(We) just didn't do it, just didn't step up and make a shot.

"Charles Rhodes and Jamont Gordon battled. They battled all night long."

Nice Hardware

Arkansas running back Darren McFadden should be accustomed to accepting the Doak Walker Award by now. After all, he did it for a third time Wednesday night.

McFadden, who became the first sophomore to win the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back, was presented the trophy with Arkansas trailing 32-30 at halftime.

McFadden also accepted the award at a ceremony in Orlando in December and at a banquet in Dallas on Feb 15. But this time, he doesn't need to give the trophy back.

"I had it three times, but this (will) be the first time I get to keep it," said McFadden, who plans to bring the trophy to his parent's house in Little Rock either this weekend or next weekend.

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