On the road, Hogs get floored

Published: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 9, 2005 at 12:11 a.m.
Arkansas was confident. The Razorbacks already had a big win at Missouri. And they were coming off a 23-point pasting of Ole Miss. So with the Gators playing without their leading scorer Saturday, Arkansas felt it had an excellent chance to win its first game at Florida since 1995.
"We really felt confident we could come in here and steal one," Razorbacks coach Stan Heath said. "We thought Florida might have a letdown without (Matt) Walsh, but that wasn't true."
Arkansas' 82-74 loss to Florida in the O'Connell Center showed the Razorbacks that they weren't ready to play on the road in the SEC just yet. The Razorbacks, who started two true freshmen, said the noise and rowdy environment in the O'Dome caused them to lose their poise, forcing them into mistakes they hadn't been making earlier this season.
"I think the crowd bothered us," said junior guard Eric Ferguson, who scored 16 points. "A lot of us haven't been in that situation because when we went to Missouri, they weren't that loud."
Arkansas won 62-52 at Missouri on Dec. 7. But that game was a far different environment than the Gators' home gym.
"Silly me, I didn't factor in that we would be listening to the 'O's,' " Heath said, referring to the crowd noise. "I figured our guys would be listening to me."
That the Razorbacks lost their poise wasn't too much of a surprise. This was just the second time Arkansas was playing on an opponents' home floor this season. The Razorbacks had previously won seven straight at home, capped by Wednesday's 69-46 drubbing of Ole Miss.
"We missed a lot of layups and free throws," Ferguson said. "For our first big road game, this is a learning experience for our young guys."
Seven-foot freshmen center Steven Hill played just 17 minutes due to foul trouble while the Razorbacks' other freshmen starter, forward Charles Thomas, fouled out with 13 seconds left after scoring just eight points.
Arkansas, though, stayed in the game behind a game-high 20 points from sophomore guard Ronnie Brewer. Brewer sprained his left ankle early in the second half, but re-taped it and came back to score 14 points in the final 16:20.
Afterward, Brewer sat in Arkansas' locker room with a bag of ice taped to his bare ankle.
"This was our first SEC road game and I think everyone is going to struggle a bit," Brewer said. "But after a while we picked it up.
"This could have been our first road win but we just didn't execute."

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