Hogs Hit Glass Hard
On second thought, they actually forced him to cringe. But he smiled anyway when first describing Arkansas' improved rebounding performance Saturday in its 82-67 victory at No. 19 Vanderbilt. "You know what, we were just really tired of getting chewed out," Ervin said. "The guards have been really getting it from Coach Heath. He's been getting on our case about the other team getting offensive rebounds." Ervin was so relaxed while discussing Heath's fiery attitude because Arkansas collectively responded in Memorial Coliseum. Leading up to the win that allowed Arkansas to slide into the Western Division's No. 3 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, the Hogs admittedly stunk at rebounding. In three games, three opponents extensively embarrassed Arkansas. In a win over Mississippi State and in losses to Auburn and Tennessee, the Razorbacks gave up a combined 55 offensive rebounds. That's 55 extra chances for their opponents to score. But the Commodores earned only 12 extra opportunities Saturday. The Hogs' increased tenacity and aggressiveness set them up for a 2:15 p.m. first-round game Thursday against South Carolina in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "We just went after it," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "It's been a sore spot the last few games. Teams had been outracing us to get them. "I took a couple of guys out during the game to make sure they get offensive rebounds." His Razorbacks quickly embraced the message. They snagged seven more rebounds than Vanderbilt in the first half. They grabbed seven offensive rebounds and relinquished just four. Freshman Michael Washington drew Heath's attention by getting his hands on one of them and scoring on a putback layup. Washington finished with a career-high six rebounds. "Mike got some crucial rebounds," Heath said. "He was an inspiration to our team." Others inspired teammates, as well. Ervin singled out Sonny Weems' only offensive rebound of the entire game. It couldn't have come at a more crucial juncture. Vanderbilt had just narrowed Arkansas' lead to five points with about six minutes left. Arkansas needed to halt the Commodores' momentum and the home crowd's noise in Memorial Gymnasium. Weems delivered, leaping high to snare Ervin's 18-foot miss with one hand. He went back up strong for a layup that gave Arkansas a 62-55 lead, and Vanderbilt's didn't get any closer. "That was a big, big rebound," Ervin said. "It doesn't get any bigger than that." Arkansas' guards seized important rebounds throughout the contest. The Hogs finished with a rebounding margin of plus-12 (42-30), one short of their SEC-high, and the guards contributed more than expected. Freshman Patrick Beverley set a career-high with a game-high 10 rebounds. Weems had five. And so did Ervin, who took a majority of Heath's ire throughout the past two weeks. "I hope we won't be hearing too much more about all this anymore," Ervin said. "Well, we better keep rebounding so we don't."
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