One And Done

SPOKANE, Wash. — Arkansas' basketball season comes to a crashing halt with a 77-60 loss to USC Friday night in the opening round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Several of Arkansas' losses this season resulted in contentious locker room atmospheres. Players would shout at each other, angry about the defeat.

Friday was different. After the Razorbacks' 77-60 loss to Southern California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Arkansas assistant coach Dan Hipsher cracked open the locker room door.

Dead silence.

"We're just real sad," Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said. "We didn't come out as intense as we needed to, and that's why we're going home."

It's one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season for Arkansas. The 12th-seeded Razorbacks jumped out to an early 14-6 lead, but struggled for the remainder of their East Regional loss. The margin of defeat was just one point short of Arkansas' worst loss in first-round play in the NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas ended its season at 21-14, with the kind of performance that likely will encourage those critics that want Stan Heath out as Arkansas' coach. Heath's fate will be determined in the near future, but Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin weighed in on the continued speculation.

"He's a father figure, for all of us," Ervin said. "He's positive, and he's a role model for our team. We would love to have Coach Heath back, regardless of the situation. And there's no doubt in my mind that he'll be back here next year."

If Heath doesn't return for a sixth season, it will probably be because of Arkansas' inconsistency regarding intensity and offensive motion.

Both areas haunted the Razorbacks in Spokane Arena.

Patrick Beverley bluntly stated the Razorbacks didn't provide nearly enough energy.

"Not even close," he said.

On an intensity scale of 1 to 10, "We were a 20 to start the game," Beverley said. But after that, "We just dropped off."

Just like in many of Arkansas' other maddening defeats this season.

At first, that initial presence of urgency produced the type of start the Hogs wanted.

They drained six of their first eight shots. They forced three turnovers and made USC miss five of its first seven shots.

And one 50-second sequence, at least temporarily, seemed to indicate it was Arkansas' night.

Ervin threaded a perfect pass to Darian Townes for a dunk and an 11-6 lead. Sonny Weems pressured USC's Nick Young into dribbling the ball off his leg and out of bounds. Townes then outhustled three Trojan defenders for a loose ball and called timeout. Charles Thomas' 3-pointer, seconds later, gave the Hogs their 14-6 advantage.

But, USC (24-11) then scored 12 straight points. During the four-minute, 30-second drought, Arkansas misfired on five shots and committed three turnovers.

"You could say a lot of things they did gave us trouble, but we just didn't make shots," Ervin said. "We had open opportunities, and we just didn't get it done. We helped (USC) out a lot."

As far as aiding the opponent, Thomas agreed with Ervin.

"We just didn't play smart," Thomas said.

The Razorbacks also had troubles containing USC forwards Young and Taj Gibson. The duo combined for 38 points and 15 rebounds. Meanwhile, Arkansas shot just 36.8 percent (21 of 57) from the field and missed all but three of its 20 attempts from 3-point range.

Those numbers could've been overcome with the type of harassing defense and fluid offense Arkansas exhibited during its Southeastern Conference Tournament run. But the Hogs forced only 12 turnovers, dished out only five assists and grabbed 13 less rebounds than the fifth-seeded Trojans.

"We've got to keep our heads high, because we fought hard to get into this position," Ervin said. "But it's tough to go out like this."

Arkansas junior center Steven Hill scores against USC on Friday night.

Sonny Weems goes in for a lay-up.

Weems walks off the court after Arkansas' loss.

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