FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After taking a break for the Christmas holidays, Arkansas returns to action on Saturday when the Razorbacks play host to Louisiana Tech in a 1:35 p.m. game televised by the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network. Arkansas is 9-3 following the 68-56 win over Oral Roberts on Dec. 22. Following is a partial transcript of head coach Stan Heath’s press conference.
“We had a full day of practice on Wednesday. We got back late on the 26th. I’m really pleased with the attitude. This group came back focused and eager to get better. This team is gelling. They’re coming together and understanding how they can fit together. They’re getting comfortable with each other.
“We’ve seen that the last few games in the way we’re starting to take care of the ball and cleaning up our turnovers. We’re passing ahead and passing into the post. That helps our offense. We’re seeing better movement.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with Gary Ervin and Sean McCurdy to try to get them more comfortable. They’ve responded very well. Gary has been up-and-down. The next key is I think there is another level that Steven Hill and Darian Townes can get to. Charles Thomas has been pretty good, Sonny is coming on and Patrick has been as steady as a rock. We need consistent play as we head into the SEC.
“These last two non-conference games are very important. Going into conference play with 11 wins would be nice. Building momentum and getting our guys hungry about winning, that’s what we want.”
“They’ve struggled if you look at wins and loses, but they’ve played people tough. LSU was six to eight points most of the game. The Texas Tech game was close all the way through. They had success last year (NIT) and they have a lot of guys back, but they haven’t found the plays down the stretch. We’re not good enough to overlook anybody. We have to be ready to play. We have to bring it every night.”
“It was very good. We did a lot of scrimmaging. The first day was okay. It was like, ‘Oh, I wish I could have had a couple more days of Christmas back home.’ Wednesday, we went hard and it was very competitive. We’re starting to execute better.
“The open court is another area we’ve had a chance to correct. We’ve had some three-on-two and two-on-one opportunities that we haven’t converted. We’ve gotten better at that, too. It’s not like we had not practiced that, but we’ve had some extra time to work on it.”
More on the point guards:
“We need to get Gary and Sean going, plain and simple, and they both have the ability to do it. That position doesn’t have to be great, but we need it to be solid.
“It’s a lot harder than people think. We have a brand new perimeter. That’s not easy because you don’t know what guys can and can’t do. Gary feels in his heart, and I think he’s right, that he can play a lot better. We have to be sure playing better means the same thing to both of us. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting up more shots. We need him to get everybody involved, make early entries and get the ball moving.”
“It’s good for the whole team. Sonny is a good example. When we throw ahead to him, he’s so fast he can attack the rim in the blink of an eye. That’s an area where I think Steven and Darian can benefit. From their standpoint, they have to be able to handle post double-teams.”
“He’s trying to get himself to be intense at this level for a long period of time. He’s never had to do that. He left practice on Wednesday with a body cramp. I had never heard of that, but Dave (England) says it is legit. In college, two minutes can change the game. That’s where it’s different. We need to be prepared and have guys ready to go.”
“Freshmen are normally up and down. Patrick has been as consistent on defense as he has on offense. A lot of the time, there’s a huge adjustment for freshmen on defense. He’s been a very good addition to our team.”