Ervin Excels For Hogs

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The rowdy Mississippi State student section berated Gary Ervin before he even stepped on the court Saturday.

They yelled nasty things during pregame warmups when they finally saw him. They harassed Ervin when he checked in. They booed the senior whenever he touched the ball during Arkansas' 80-74 loss.

The nonstop shouting was impossible for Ervin to ignore, but the former MSU guard responded with one of his best outings. He led Arkansas with a team-high 15 points. Ervin also added 4 rebounds and 1 assist with zero turnovers, helping the Razorbacks come close to grabbing an important road win.

"Gary was real focused tonight," center Darian Townes said. "He didn't let the crowd get to him. He tuned them out. I think he played a great game."

But the performance wasn't enough to satisfy Ervin.

Arkansas' loss in a place he used to call home left a bitter taste Saturday night.

"It's nothing like winning against your old team," Ervin said. "Forget scoring 20 points, doing whatever it takes, get winning baskets, the only thing that matters is a (win). That's something we couldn't get."

It was a much better outing than last season's disaster, when Ervin was held scoreless in nine minutes during Arkansas' 24-point loss to MSU. He said the nonstop harassment — as well as his inability to stay calm — prepared him for his second trip.

This time, the yelling, shouting and, even, swearing didn't rattle him.

"It actually just put a smile on my face," Ervin said. "People say harsh things, but at the same time, if you're mad I left a place it means you care about me."

Ervin came off the bench to calm the Razorbacks during a tumultuous first half. He played a critical part in Arkansas' comeback after the break, slicing through the lane for layups, drawing contact to get to the free-throw line and even knocking down a 3-pointer.

In all, Ervin went 6 of 11, including 2-for-3 from 3-point range. He played 18 of his 29 minutes in the second half, while starter Stefan Welsh played two.

"I thought he played well," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "Any time you can come on the road and play 29 minutes and not turn it over, that's positive."

He also earned some praise from Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, who let the point guard transfer to Arkansas after his sophomore season in 2005-06.

"Gary played great against us," Stansbury said. "Gary is a great kid, great person. Things just didn't work out for him here. I've never had hard feelings."

It was pretty clear the MSU crowd did, though.

Ervin was the most popular subject for homemade signs in The Hump on Saturday. One of the most recognizable was a carryover from last year, describing Ervin as a player that was greedy, arrogant, rebellious and a yankee, among others.

Ervin just laughed it off. He let his performance do all the talking.

"It was a tough crowd, but at the same time, that's what college basketball is about," Ervin said. "I was just trying to do whatever it takes to make my team win. This is just another game. I'm not going to force shots just because this was my home once.

"I just wanted to play smart basketball."

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