With finals completed, the Horns (7-2) are back in action tonight against old Southwest Conference rival Arkansas (8-2). Tip time is 8 PM central (ESPN2). Tonight's game will be the 150th meeting between these two schools but the first since the final season of the SWC in 1991.
Even though neither team is ranked and they both have similar records, Texas is a 9 pt favorite and deservedly so. None of Arkansas' eight wins have come over quality competition. Against teams from major conferences, they are 0-2 with a 22 point loss at Missouri and a 15 point loss last weekend to Texas Tech in Little Rock. Their best win of the season was a 61-53 victory over S. Illinois in Orlando. The Hogs are 0-1 in true road games this season.
Arkansas is a very balanced and solid team. They have five players averaging over eight points per game but none averages more than 13 points. Freshman Patrick Beverley (6'1" 172) leads the team with 12.7 ppg. Stan Heath's club is also deep. Nine Razorbacks play over 10 minutes per contest. Last, Arkansas rebounds the ball well as a team but no one player has outstanding rebounding numbers. The Hogs are outrebounding their opponents by over six boards per game but no single player average even five boards.
The Razorbacks are much more experienced than the Horns. Six of their top nine players are juniors but their top scorer and most talented player, Beverley, is a freshman. To pull the upset tonight, Arkansas must get better play out of point guard Gary Ervin (6'0" 176). Ervin averages a solid nine points, three rebounds, and a team high five assists per game. He had just three assists against six turnovers in their loss to the Red Raiders. His only other game with more turnovers than assists was the Razorbacks other loss of the season. As Ervin goes, so go the Hogs.
Arkansas will likely also need big games from Beverley at the other guard spot and from Charles Thomas (6'8" 245) at the post. Beverley has the ability to score anywhere on the floor. In his first game of the season he hit six threes and scored 29 points. He is also a very good rebounder from the perimeter. Thomas will be a load for Texas to handle down low. He is coming off his best game of the year against Tech. He was active around the rim and got to the free throw line 13 times in route to scoring a season high 21 points. Texas must keep Thomas off the glass.
Keys to the Game:
The first four are our typical stats to follow.
1.Free Throw Attempts: More than 20
2.Assist to Turnover Ratio: 1.2 or Greater
3.Rebounding Margin: Even or Positive
4.Field Goal % Defense: Under 40%
5.Force Arkansas Turnovers
The Hogs average an awful 17.8 turnovers per game. If Texas can force tempo and get easy baskets from their defense, then it will a long night for Arkansas.
6. Find Kevin Durant
Durant has had back to back less than stellar performances after starting the year with seven straight 20+ point performances. The offense should run through Durant every time down the floor. The team must make sure his touches increase and Durant must make sure he attacks the rim and not just settle for the three pointer.
I don't think this one will be close. Texas will come out much more focused than last game. The Hogs are not road tested and it will show. Texas wins going away, 85-70.