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ARKANSAS ENJOYS THE RUNNING GAME

ARKANSAS ENJOYS THE RUNNING GAME

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Arkansas' basketball team, the one that opposes Duke Saturday in the NCAA semifinals, knows one speed.

No, make that two speeds.Fast and faster.

Nevada-Las Vegas is known as the Runnin' Rebels, but coach Jerry Tarkanian says ``we haven't really been that since 1977.'

Well, if you can't see the Rebels run, have you ever watched a Razorback?

Nolan Richardson's Arkansas team likes it fast and furious for all 94 feet of court on offense and defense. They are a little brash and very bold.

They also average 96 points per game, pale by Loyola-Marymount standards, but the highest figure of the four teams competing this weekend for the national championship. That's about three more than Vegas, seven more than Duke and about eight more than Georgia Tech.

Arkansas' ``hog ball,' however, isn't generated by sweet jump shots, or slam dunks, although they get plenty of both.

Like Duke, defense is the key. The Hogs have forced 41 turnovers in their last two games and guard Lee Mayberry has 15 steals in the tournament.

``My coaching philosophy has always started with defense,' Richardson said. ``Because of that we play totally a 94-foot game. We don't want to get into a total halfcourt game.'

So, in preparing for Duke this week, Richardson isn't concerned about Duke's apparent edge in size and experience.

``We will have problems matching up,' Richardson said, ``but we're not worried about that. We don't play matchup basketball. We play a lot of zone and we press. The only thing we can do is make sure we execute the way we can.'

And that begins with wingman Todd Day, a 6-7 sophomore. He averages 19 points a game and leads the team with 158 3-pointers. But it his aggressive, tireless defense that really makes things happen.

The Hogs have forced 707 turnovers. By comparison, Duke, a team known for defense, has 734.

Sophomore Mayberry and junior guard Arlyn Bowers join Day as the Hogs' trio of torment. Day has 82 steals, Mayberry 63 and Bowers 40.

With a lot of points generated off turnovers, Mayberry averages 14.6 points and shoots 51.5 percent on 3-pointers. Bowers averages 5.6.

Mario Credit, 6-9, starts at center and averages 9.5 points and 3.9 rebounds, while Lenzie Howell, perhaps the team's best athlete, starts at forward and averages 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds.

With so much youth in the starting five, it was generally thought that next year would be the one in which this team would blossom. Credit and Howell are the only seniors playing significant roles.

``It just happened that the time was right,' Richardson said. ``Day and Mayberry have been over-achievers.

``What we've put together is a team of very different people. Day is almost arrogant. Mayberry is very low key. We've been fortunate to have the right chemistry.'

In fact, there are several ingredients to the Razorbacks which make it an intriguing team.

Take reserve center Oliver Miller - all 6-foot-9, 270 pounds of him. Now, Miller is listed at 270. That's after he reported to the opening day of practice at 303. That 270 may be conservative.

But Miller's talents and desire are not. He plays and talks a good game, averaging 11.4 points and 6.3 rebounds. He also leads the team in blocked shots (85), meaning he has no trouble getting his bulk airborne.

``Miller is the kind of guy who comes to practice and asks 'what can I do to get better?' ' Richardson said.

Miller leads the team in intimidation and adds to that defensive intensity around the glass.

Miller, who may be the most underrated player in the Final Four, and Credit are often on the floor at the same time.

Richardson's other top reserve is 6-6 Ron Huery, who averages 10.1 points and is the team's top free throw shooter at 80.2 percent.

Richardson can go nine deep on the bench just to keep the defensive pressure at top level.

Richardson thinks the Final Four could be a high-scoring affair, hopefully with his Hogs bellying up to the front of the trough.

``You've got four teams with great transition games,' he said, ``and all of them play great defense.'

Perhaps Duke's Mike Krzyzewski put it all in perspective, saying ``there won't be any slowdowns.'

Richardson said he wants his team just to keep playing the way they have.

He calls it ``40 minutes of hell.'

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