FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas plays host to Southern Mississippi Wednesday at 8:06 p.m. in a game being televised by FSN. The Razorbacks are 3-2 after Saturday’s 75-55 victory over Radford. USM is 1-2 going into a game against Samford Monday. Following is a partial transcript of head coach Stan Heath’s press conference.
“I’m looking forward to practicing. Today is the first day we’ll get to clean up a few things (from the Maui Invitational) we need to get better at. I feel better, so I know they feel better. You would be amazed because (the trip) does set you back a couple of days. It wasn’t just us. A couple of other teams were sluggish in their games this weekend, but that is behind us. It’s time to play and get better.
“In 2000 when we won the national championship (at Michigan State), we played Iowa State and were down 13 late. We came back and won, but that was a really tough team. I know (USM head coach) Larry Eustachy is rebuilding, but you can see some of that same toughness.
“We need to play at a high level. The last time (USM) was here, they won. Iowa State was awfully good. We played them in the Elite Eight. They were tough on defense and rebounded well. He doesn’t have the talent or the maturity yet that he had at Iowa State, but it’s a work in progress and it’s coming. It will be hard to get the ball inside. They run the flex on offense, which means we need to be patient on defense and fight through screens.”
“If you take Portland State and Radford out, we will have played Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Southern Mississippi and Missouri. That’s a heck of a schedule. We scheduled this way to get ready for conference and to have teams on our resume. It’s important to get some momentum and to get some wins.”
Areas to improve on:
“We have to do a better job of finishing possessions defensively, mainly getting steals and rebounding. A lot of that is not just the big men. Our guards have to get in there. Offensively, the big thing was passing. We had casual passes get knocked away, and we waited too long to pass into the post and those got knocked away.”
“He’s worked hard on his rebounding and he’s much better. His rebounding is okay, but I would love to see him be an 8-to-10 rebound guy. I didn’t start him against Radford because he was going to have to chase around small guys. Against Connecticut, his defense and rebounding weren’t at the level they should have been. He responded well against Kansas. In the second half against Maryland, he did a good job.”
“He’s making progress. He can do more than he’s doing, especially offensively. I’m disappointed he wasn’t more assertive in the Radford game. He’s coming along. He hasn’t had a breakout game, but it’s coming.”
“He’s trying to be an all-around player and a team guy, but when he’s left open, he needs to shoot. He’s got to know that is his role – to shoot and score. He has picked up his defense and rebounding.”
“The next two days will be tell-tale. He had basically no practice since the injury (Nov. 4) and had five points and six rebounds against Radford. I was very pleased.”
“Towards the spring, he was still finding himself. He was trying to figure out if he could play at this level. Sometime during the summer, he found it. Now he’s confident. Good players are able to identify and correct things that need to be corrected and he did that. If he plays like he did against Kansas consistently, it will make a big difference for us. He doesn’t have to get 12 or 13 points to do that. Against Radford, he had eight assists and two turnovers. I’ll take that.”
“It’s been hard on him (expectations), but the way he’s dealt with it has been great. Ronnie hasn’t totally been Ronnie. He usually gets a lot of rebounds and assists. I’ve also challenged him defensively. He has a knack for getting a lot of steals and deflections. I think he’s felt like he needs to force some things. I’ve told him he doesn’t have to because he has some help. Both Jonathon and Darian give us offensive firepower without it being forced.”