FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas plays host to Mississippi State on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. in the final regular-season home game of the year. Following is a partial transcript of head coach Stan Heath’s press conference.
“I really hope it’s a special night for Jonathon Modica, Eric Ferguson, who are two four-year players, and also for Dontell Jefferson, who’s been here two years. Those guys have been a part of the rebuilding process, they are good kids and they’ve done a lot.
“Two guys (Ferguson and Modica) are 1,000-point scorers. I’m proud of the way they have grown and the way they’ve played down the stretch. They are playing their best basketball and it couldn’t come at a better time for us.
“I know as much pressure as I’ve felt (to get to the NCAA Tournament), they’ve felt the same amount. I know how important that is for Eric, but Jonathon, being from Arkansas, he wants to do it for his home state.
“We still have to be a very hungry team. We are in a good position, but things change week-to-week. The biggest change in our play has been on the inside. Darian Townes, Steven Hill, Charles Thomas and Vincent Hunter are all sophomores and I can see them all growing and blossoming. We need to continue to get that same kind of play from them.”
“Mississippi State has a lot of talent. They are young, but talented. Charles Rhodes is having a huge conference season. If not for some of the other freshmen in the league, everybody would be talking about Jamont Gordon. Lately, they’ve gone to a smaller lineup. They’ve been starting Rhodes at center. They are small, quick and dangerous in transition, and they can rebound well because they have great athletes and speed.”
Reasons for improved play:
“A couple of things have happened to make us better. One is our inside play. Another is inserting Eric Ferguson into the lineup. He’s a legitimate threat to score and he’s a veteran.”
Balanced scoring with five players in double figures in the last three games:
“I’ve always wanted to be diverse and have balance. Recently we’ve been in that mode. When inside guys score, it has a positive affect in other areas because they feel more a part of things.”
“Charles has grown a lot. This season, compared to last season, is as different as night and day. At Tennessee, I was getting ready to sub him in for Vince. He said Vince was playing well and to leave him in. He is unselfish and about winning. He’s willing to make sacrifice plays giving up his body and diving into the stands.”
“Playing point guard has taken away from his scoring, but it’s helped our team. Even from that spot, he’ll be able to score.”
“I think everybody across Arkansas is happy for Vince because of his ups and downs. He brings energy and hustle, whether it’s getting a rebound or a tip. He’s a long, tall glass of water. He takes pressure off of Darian and Charles from playing extended minutes and having to make a lot of hustle plays.”