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March 10, 2007

Gary Ervin

Stan Heath

Charles Thomas

Sonny Weems


THE MODERATOR: We're ready to continue with Arkansas. Coach, would you begin?
STAN HEATH: I'm real proud of these guys. They've showed the heart of a champion. We're playing our best basketball right now. We did a lot of things well. We guarded two great players in Rhodes and Gordon, just kind of slowed them down a little bit. I thought that was a big key for us. And we finally figured out that we better get to those three-point shooters a lot better in the second half. We finally were able to guard a little bit better. Then we had a little patience offensively, and that helped us, too.

Q. Gary, with everything at stake in this ballgame for your team, is this a satisfying win you've had in your college career, either here or at Mississippi State?
GARY ERVIN: Definitely. We came together as a team. Now is the best thing. It wasn't just one person or just me feeling like we needed to win. From the coaching side throughout the 13th player on the bench, we were just confident coming into this game.

Q. Hey, Gary, what did you think Charles' play early on did for you guys, as far as fueling everything that was going on?
GARY ERVIN: He just did what Coach asked him to do. Be aggressive, look at the basket, face up, when you have an open 14- or 15-footer and knock it down. Just go out there and get rebounds. He did a great job of that, and we've got to tip our hats off to him.

Q. Gary, just talk about that stretch in the second half. You scored I think 9 points, an 11-point run y'all had, what was going through your mind at that time?
GARY ERVIN: Well, I just felt Coach told us in the timeout that we just need to go on the run and start with defense. We got stops and easy baskets in transition. We scored 9 points out of 11, that wasn't real big for me. We just wanted to win as a team.

Q. Sonny, just talk about the possibility of getting to the NCAA Tournament, and do you think this is going to get you in there and for the other players, too?
SONNY WEEMS: We're really not worried about that. We're taking this SEC Championship real serious. That's one step we have to go through to make it to the NCAA Tournament. But right now we're focused on the SEC Championship.

Q. Charles, what's your thoughts?
CHARLES THOMAS: Pretty much the same like Sonny said right now, we're focusing on one game at a time. We have to take it to our hands whether it's Ole Miss or Florida right now. We just have to look towards that game and deal with that.

Q. This is for any of them, Gary we'll start with you: Talk about your coach's leadership over this season, and what you've seen in him as a man and as a leader.
GARY ERVIN: Everybody thinks Coach Heath is just a quiet calm guy, that's not true at all. You know, he's fiery. And it starts with him, you know. He could have gave up on us losing a couple of games at home and on the road. But instead he stayed confident and just told us to go out there and have fun. Just play to win, and we did a good job of that. We followed his lead.
SONNY WEEMS: You know, I tip my hat off to Coach. We're behind him 100%. You hear a lot of things going on outside about him, but on the court, you know, with 13 players and the coaching staff, we really know what's going on.
CHARLES THOMAS: My teammates said it good enough. That he's a really intense guy. I think any other coach in his situation, with what's being said, would have folded. He stepped behind his team, his teammates and coaching staff and believed in us.

Q. This is for each one of you guys: Are you tired?
SONNY WEEMS: No. You know, we've got the SEC Championship tomorrow. We've got a lot of gas in the tank. I don't think we're tired at all. When you're playing for a championship, you know, you're going to bring it all.
GARY ERVIN: We were in this situation at the beginning of the season, in the Florida tournament and we went out and won. So we came out with the confidence, and we packed for four days and we're playing four games. That's what we're going to go out and do.
CHARLES THOMAS: Well, I was going to say what Gary said, but y'all ask me questions last.
We've got a lot of gas in the tank, let me go with that one.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Coach Heath.

Q. Coach, the players talked about the criticism this year, is this redemption for you because it's been such a tough year outside of basketball? I know you told your players not to pay attention to this, but how nice has this run been for you in this tournament?
STAN HEATH: Believe it or not, I really and genuinely am happy for my players and probably my wife and my kids. It really probably bothers them more than it bothers me. As a coach, you go into this field, and you know you're a target. You know that people are going to like you, people are going to not like you. You get to the point where you say it really doesn't matter.
That really hasn't been my focus. It's been more or less keeping my team grounded, and keeping them -- their eyes on the important things of what we're trying to do.

Q. Sonny talked about your defensive strategy on Gordon and Rhodes, just talk about that a little bit, and how you were able to slow him down.
STAN HEATH: I've never seen a player, at least I haven't seen one personally who played against him, that has the ability to just get the ball from out of bounds or get the ball for the rebound and get to the basket no matter how many defenders you have back. He just has a knack of getting to the rim. We just figured we'd have to put two guys to guard until he slowed down. I called it corralling him, And that's what we tried to do. Couple of times it didn't work, but for the most part I thought we kept him away from the basket. And having an eraser like Steven also made a big difference, because there were times he did get there and things were changed, too. And unfortunately because of that, Steven fouled out, because he's given so much help. But he was a detractor around that rim for Mississippi State throughout that game.

Q. Did you do anything differently in the second half to slow down their three-point shooting, or was it just paying more attention to the shooters?
STAN HEATH: For some reason we were maybe a step too far away from our man in the first half. You know, shots would go up, and it looked like we were giving a great effort. But on the catch we were a little bit too far away. So at halftime I just told them, listen, guys, we've got to be closer to those shooters. We've got to get there on the catch so they can't get into their rhythm. I thought we were a smarter team doing that in the second half.

Q. Coach, I thought I overheard you say that you feel you should be in at this point, do you want to expand on that?
STAN HEATH: I'll do it since the players aren't here, because I definitely want their attention on winning this championship. It would be a huge feather for us to win an SEC Championship. A big thing. And I want us totally prepared for that. But in my opinion, it's really a no-brainer. I think we removed any doubt, any ifs, that we belong to be in that field.

Q. Just talk about Stefan and Washington. The top of what they're doing for you off the bench, and how they're giving stuff you didn't have?
STAN HEATH: We wouldn't be this far along if a few things hadn't happened. Gary has been so much more solid, and running our team. That's been a huge turnaround for us. Recently to get those bonus productions from either Stef or Michael has been a big lift for our basketball team. Charles has been a little bit up and down, and this was a huge game for him, and it came at a great time for us.
While that was happening, Michael was giving us valuable minutes and valuable contributions from that spot. You know, one thing that I knew about this team was we would be better as time went along, if we stayed together. A brand new perimeter, probably the only team in the league that has all new guys there. Now freshman contributing at different spots for us. To be able to hold things together and now play at a high level like we're playing right now is definitely what's allowed us to turn the corner.

Q. Coach, if you guys beat Florida tomorrow, you go from a bubble team or not even being in the tournament to maybe the hottest team in the tournament with six straight wins. Is that something you tell the guys about tomorrow to get them going?
STAN HEATH: We haven't had one discussion about, hey, if this happens then this happens. It's totally about, we're playing Ole Miss or we're playing Florida, and we try to prepare for the things that we feel are important and give us a chance to win, and that's all we're trying to do.

Q. Stan, Charles had 18 and 18, you could tell he was on a different level today. Talk about the rebounds especially.
STAN HEATH: Charles started the game off with rebounding, with energy, with great effort. It became contagious for the other guys on the court. I know for him personally being from the state of Mississippi, he wants to play well against his hometown schools. This was, I think, a game for him to really reach down deep, which I think he did. The rebounding, the scoring, he had some scoring at key times, too. Just gave us a tremendous lift, gave us consistency both offensively and defensively.

Q. Is this the best game he ever played for Arkansas?
STAN HEATH: I agree with that, and at the right time.

Q. The job you guys did on Gordon and Rhodes, talk about that, really shutting them down, because they're the two main players.
STAN HEATH: I'm sure some of it was us, some of it may have been fatigue on their part, I don't know for sure. But we knew that they were key, if we were able to slow them down a little bit, we'd have our best chance. I was a little bit worried in the first half because those three-point shooters had it going. But I think finally we were able to do a little bit of both, which I wasn't sure we were able to do, but we were able to do that.

Q. What was the key?
STAN HEATH: In my opinion, he gets 10 to 15 points on lay-ups, just running, dribbling, getting to the basket and scoring. We wanted to take away some of those easy scores he's able to get.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you.

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