FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas’ men’s basketball team plays its first Southeastern Conference road game on Wednesday when the Razorbacks face Ole Miss in Oxford at 7 p.m. The game is not being televised. Arkansas is 12-2 overall, but 0-1 in the SEC following Saturday’s 70-56 home loss to Mississippi State. The Rebels are 9-6 overall and 0-1 in the league following a loss at Florida, but 7-1 at home. Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Monday to preview the game. Following is a partial transcript of that press conference.
“This is a huge week for our team. We go on the road for two games. No matter the outcome of the previous game, this is a huge week. We lost at home so we have to try to get one back on the road. That first opportunity is at Ole Miss, which has traditionally been a tough place to play. They’ve had good teams and good coaches.”
“Ole Miss is coming off a tough loss at Florida. I’m sure they are looking forward to their (SEC) home opener.
“They have had a series of very difficult injuries. I’ve been through something like that at Florida. In our first three SEC games one year, we lost three starters. It’s devastating. Everybody talks about how foul trouble and injuries are a part of the game, but until you go through it, you don’t know what it’s like. I think this will make their program stronger over the long haul, and I think they will win some games this year.
“At Florida, they played in a very hostile environment. They got down, but kept battling and fighting. That’s a tribute to those players and coaches.
“David Huertas’ 20 points a game right now are even more important. (Zach) Graham can shoot the ball. He’s stepped in and given them stability. I’m impressed with how many guys they’ve been able to play. That’s a credit to (head coach) Andy Kennedy and his staff.”
SEC road games:
“We have to focus on taking better care of the ball and getting good shots. We need a better understanding of handling the ball. We need to stay away from situations that are one-pass shots. A lot of possessions (against MSU) could have been better for us. We need to look at our defense. In the first half, it was good and kept us in the game. In the second half, it wasn’t as good.
“I expect us to play smarter basketball. We need to operate our offense better to where we stay away from turnovers and tough shots.
“It’s a long season. We enjoy playing here (at home), but everyone is excited. We’ve had some success on the road, but this will be a greater challenge.
“I think we’re ready. A lot of playing on the road is a mind-set. I will be surprised if we come out and don’t show an attitude that is caring about the team, play hard and compete.”
Power forward position (Marcus Monk and Michael Sanchez):
“Looking back at it (against MSU), it wasn’t the way it seemed. We did some good things. It was better than I thought.”
“They came in and set the tone from the start. They made a couple of plays defensively that put them in transition. If we can do the same thing, whether it’s at the start, in the middle or the finish, we’ll take it.
“I don’t think we lost because of any feeling of overconfidence. Mississippi State out-played us.”
“It’s tough. When you’re standing there wide open, with Stefan (Welsh), you like his chances. You like Rotnei (Clarke’s) chances and Courtney (Fortson) has had some success. It’s a double-edged sword. As an athlete, you want a short memory. More important than that is giving us a chance to get something else because we know we can get that (three-point shot).”
“I’m looking forward to seeing him a couple of days in practice. He played hard the other night. It’s time to see what we can get there.”