Heath Expects ‘A War'

ATLANTA — The Arkansas and Mississippi State basketball teams each spent a considerable amount of energy while winning games Friday at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The Razorbacks fought back from an eight-point deficit to squeak past Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs outlasted Kentucky for a two-point victory in overtime. And less than a day later, the Razorbacks and Bulldogs must recharge for another grueling game. They meet today in the SEC semifinals at noon in the Georgia Dome. "I think both teams are going to have to put their games behind them quickly," Arkansas coach Stan Heath said. "It's going to be a war. The last time, we had a little scuffle. It'll be interesting to see what the intensity level is like this time, and how both teams respond to that." Despite their drained physical condition, both teams should possess ample motivation for today's contest. Most importantly, Arkansas could seal an NCAA Tournament at-large berth with a victory. At the same time, Mississippi State could feel the same way. Heath argued Friday after the Hogs' 72-71 victory over Vanderbilt that his team deserved a berth regardless of today's outcome. In fact, Arkansas' projected RPI rose to 38, according to realtimerpi.com late Friday night. Don't confuse that as a sign the Razorbacks will take Mississippi State lightly, though. "Absolutely, no question about it (I think we should be in)," Heath said. "Anybody who has been watching this team ... there is no way you can look at it and say that this team does not belong in the 65. "But we still have some basketball to play and we don't want to leave anything to chance. Winning (the tournament) is the only thing that guarantees you that spot." The other motivating factor for both teams certainly revolves around the brief shoving match on Feb. 28 during Arkansas' nine-point victory in Fayetteville. In that game, Gary Ervin drove into the lane and got fouled by Mississippi State's Charles Rhodes. Ervin and Rhodes exchanged unpleasant comments and pushed each other. Steven Hill stepped in and started to yell at Rhodes. Patrick Beverley charged at Rhodes and was restrained by teammates. It's an incident no one has forgotten. "Oh yeah, it'll be on our minds," Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said. "It'll be a real physical game." TODAY'S TICKET MISSISSIPPI STATE VS. ARKANSAS WHEN: Noon TV: KHOG (Cable channel 7) WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta RECORDS: Mississippi State, 18-12; Arkansas, 20-12 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: Arkansas, Stan Heath (81-69, 5th season; 111-74 overall, 6 seasons); Mississippi State, Rick Stansbury, (182-102, ninth season; 182-102, 9 seasons) SERIES: Arkansas leads 24-18 (Arkansas leads 4-1 in neutral-site games) LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Mississippi State 67-58 on Feb. 28 in Fayetteville LINEUPS ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (20-12) PROBABLE STARTERS Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG G Gary Ervin 6-0 Junior 10.1 3.5 G Patrick Beverley 6-1 Freshman 14.2 4.4 C Steven Hill 7-0 Junior 6.3 4.4 F Charles Thomas 6-8 Junior 10.8 5.6 F Sonny Weems 6-6 Junior 11.3 4.7 KEY RESERVES F Darian Townes 6-10 Junior 8.5 4.5 G Stefan Welsh 6-2 Freshman 3.3 0.8 F Michael Washington 6-10 Freshman 2.6 1.4 MISSISSIPPI STATE (18-12) PROBABLE STARTERS Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG G Jamont Gordon 6-4 Sophomore 16.2 7.3 G Richard Delk 6-4 Sophomore 5.5 2.3 G Reginald Delk 6-4 Sophomore 9.8 2.1 F Dietric Slater 6-3 Senior 10.2 5.6 F Charles Rhodes 6-8 Junior 13.6 6.0 KEY RESERVES G Barry Stewart 6-2 Freshman 10.0 3.2 G Ben Hansbrough 6-3 Freshman 6.9 2.5 F Jarvis Varnado 6-9 Freshman 4.8 4.1

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