FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas travels to Nashville for Saturday’s noon non-televised game at No. 19 Vanderbilt. The game was originally scheduled for 3 p.m., but has been moved to noon. The Razorbacks are 17-12 overall and 6-9 in the SEC following Wednesday’s win over Mississippi State. The Commodores are 20-9 overall and 10-5. Following is a partial transcript of head coach Stan Heath’s press conference.
“This will be a tough game. Their team last year reminds me of where we are right now. Patrick Beverley, Sonny Weems and Gary Ervin are in their first year in a Razorback uniform. As we move forward, they will be better.
“Derrick Byars was a transfer (for Vanderbilt). He’s on my short list of MVP candidates. They are playing very well and they play well together. They defend their home court. All five players can shoot the three. We have to play well. It’s a unique place to play.
“We will work hard to clean up some areas. We’ll go with confidence, have fun and play with some fire.
“Charles Thomas is our best candidate to guard Byars. He will have to work, stay in front of him and make things tough. Byars played really well here (last year). He’s playing the way he played here last year this entire season. Last year, Ronnie Brewer was the most versatile player in the league. This year, Byars is.
“Chris Lofton (Tennessee) makes the toughest-guarded threes of anybody in the league, but Shan Foster is next. He has good size and bounce.
“Vanderbilt has done a great job of winning close games. They’ve won two in overtime and both of their games against Kentucky they pulled out late.”
“I don’t have a problem (with the number of threes shot) if the right guys are shooting them and if we’re open, but we need balance. We need to get our big guys more touches. If guys like Patrick Beverley and Stefan Welsh are open and it’s a good shot, they should shoot.”
Mississippi State game:
“I thought our team not only fought, they fought for each other. I thought that was a bonding moment that could go a long way.
“To win at Vanderbilt would be huge. We’ve been close and had our chances, but to win there going into the SEC Tournament would do a lot for our confidence.”
“We weren’t perfect (against Mississippi State), but what we did do, we did for 40 minutes. Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes did their thing, but we did a good job taking away everything else.”
Fewer minutes for the guards:
“What Stefan (Welsh) did was huge. That allowed us to play that way and be a much stronger team down the stretch, and to be a much stronger team on the perimeter.
“It’s hard for a freshman. They get homesick, they wonder about this, that and the other. Sometimes when their head is not right their game is not right.”
“Twenty offensive rebounds (by MSU) is a large number. I’m not trying to make an excuse for that, but in my first year, we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean, but we could rebound. Our guards have to do a better job of keeping their guy out. When we’re shutting people down defensively, teams are more aggressive going after rebounds because they feel like they will not get as many chances.
“When we needed some big ones, we got some. Charles Thomas got in there and got some. We need to keep working on it.”
Players playing for him:
“I love those guys. They are all good guys. I want their attention on playing and having fun. They don’t need to worry about anything else.”