Razorbacks Hope To Handle The Hump

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The last few days, Mississippi State's students started their research, compiling their own unique scouting report. Unlike the Bulldogs, who play host to Arkansas at 3 p.m. today, they don't care about the Razorbacks' on-court abilities.

That Arkansas senior Sonny Weems tends to drive more to his right than his left doesn't concern them. That his mother's name is Sherry does, helping to explain why a trip to Humphrey Coliseum provides such a stiff challenge for opponents.

"Man, the fans are crazy," Weems said. "I'm talking about absolutely crazy. They say stuff you wouldn't even ... They know your mom's name. So they're real crazy there."

Those rabid followers haven't scored any points or grabbed any rebounds against the Hogs throughout the years. But they sure have created an environment conducive to physical mistakes and mental miscues. Couple that with an atmosphere senior Steven Hill says is "small, dark and loud," and the reality that Arkansas last won in Starkville in 2000 doesn't seem surprising.

Earlier this week, first-year Arkansas coach John Pelphrey recalled The Hump from his days as a player at Kentucky and an assistant coach at Florida. The Razorbacks' recent futility there wasn't near his mind, however.

"I did not know that these young men have not won down there," Pelphrey said.

In most of those seven consecutive losses, Arkansas didn't even get close, losing by an average of 17 points per game. And their last two most lopsided defeats have come in Starkville, by 25 points in 2005 and by 24 last season.

One Razorback knows all too well how harsh the student body can act. Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin played his first two seasons at Mississippi State for coach Rick Stansbury, but then transferred to Arkansas.

Ervin's first return to Starkville last February was a jarring experience for the 24-year-old. He was repeatedly showered with profanity, mocked and booed.

One sign created by a student read, "This is not 36th St. in Brooklyn," which referred to Ervin's birthplace. Another was not quite as tame, spelling Ervin's full name vertically and including words for each letter. On one side, it read: Greedy, Arrogant, Rebellious, Yankee. On the flip side: Erratic, Reckless, Vane, Inept, No-good point guard.

"I think it was the worst I've ever seen, period," Ervin said. "It doesn't matter what they say out their mouths, they're going to say it. That's kind of the funny thing. They don't really know your family, but at the same time, when guys get on the Internet and look at things and see your parent's name or your friend's name or what you love to do, then that's just something they try to attack and use against you."

Despite the raucous surroundings, the Razorbacks insisted they would block out the viciousness. Arkansas can jump into a first-place tie in the SEC Western Division with a victory. A loss drops the Razorbacks to two games behind the Bulldogs.

A defeat also ensures that Arkansas' senior class will depart Fayetteville without a triumph in The Hump.

"This is our last go-around," Ervin said. "This is our last chance. I think this game right here is make-or-break for our season."

TODAY'S TICKET

ARKANSAS AT MISSISSIPPI STATE

WHEN: 3 p.m. TV: ESPN (Cox Ch. 25/732HD)

WHERE: Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.

RECORDS: Arkansas, 17-6, 6-3 Southeastern Conference; Mississippi State, 16-7, 7-2

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, John Pelphrey (17-6, 1st season; 97-73, 6 seasons); Mississippi State, Rick Stansbury (201-111, 10th season; 201-111, 10 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 25-18 (Mississippi State leads 14-5 in Starkville)

LAST MEETING: Arkansas beat Mississippi State 78-58 on Jan. 30 in Fayetteville

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