FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –-Arkansas faces Austin Peay on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. in the first game of the Jim Thorpe Classic. The tournament includes three single games on three different nights. The second game is Austin Peay and Stephen F. Austin on Friday at 7 p.m. with free admission. The third game is Saturday at 7:05 p.m. with the Razorbacks facing SFA. Arkansas’ games on Wednesday and Saturday are being televised by Razorback Sports Properties (RSP), formerly ARSN. RSP affiliates are KFTA in Fayetteville, KATV in Little Rock and KAIT in Jonesboro.
Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Monday to preview Wednesday’s game. The Razorbacks are 6-1 while APSU, which won the Ohio Valley Conference championship and earned an NCAA Tournament spot a year ago, is 5-3 with four road wins. Following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“The three practices we had last week leading up to our last game (North Carolina Central) and our last two have been very good. I’m pleased with that. We still aspire to get our best game to the court. I hope we can get better and get a game plan in for Wednesday because with the team we’re playing, we need to play our best game. They are a veteran team and they are extremely, extremely well-coached. They have a good inside-outside attack. They do a good job of posting up and extending pressure. The team that plays the best will win.”
Austin Peay at No. 9 Louisville on Saturday (a 94-75 Louisville win, but APSU led 59-54):
“I don’t know if there was any pressure (on Austin Peay), but fatigue may have come into play. Coach (Rick) Pitino’s good teams keep pressure on you. More than anything else, I think it was improved play by Louisville than something Austin Peay did or didn’t do. I talked to Coach. I asked a couple of questions about the game and then we talked about other things.”
APSU’s Drake Reed (20.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Wes Channels (17.5 ppg):
“They are outstanding. Reed was the player of the year in their league and they already have four road wins this year. He’s a big-time player. He can hurt you with offensive rebounds. We have to move our feet and try to stay square.
“Channels can play the point or on the wing. He’s very, very good in transition.
“This team is very good. This is a big challenge for us.”
Courtney Fortson (against NCCU, recorded second triple-double in school history and on Monday named SEC Player of the Week, becoming the first freshman in school history to earn the award):
“That’s pretty awesome. It was an awesome performance and a great, great accomplishment to be the only Arkansas freshman to win that award.
“We all have to deal with failure, but not everybody has to deal with success. I would rather have players that are good enough to have to deal with success than have players who aren’t good enough. We had conversations after the triple-double. For any first-year guy, not just Courtney, they have to deal with things and adjust. Courtney’s first road game didn’t go very well. His second was better.
“It was a tremendous accomplishment no matter when you get that. Those are pretty cool ‘firsts’ to have attached to your name. He probably will not get a triple-double every night, but we need his heart and toughness every night.”
Jim Thorpe Classic:
“The NCAA made the change a couple of years ago that you can play in an exempt tournament every year and get extra games. We have a young team, we could play as many games as we can at home, we could play in the first semester and we didn’t have to travel were all factors that played into this.
“We aspired to have a three-game tournament, but scheduling is not easy.
“Based on our team and what is going on (in the future), we would like to someday have a chance to go to Maui (Hawaii) or the pre-season NIT. Arkansas had success in Orlando a few years ago (won the Old Spice Classic) and Puerto Rico was good for us last year. I think we have a good schedule for our team right now.”
“No change there. He’s still indefinitely suspended.”
“I anticipate having him in practice on Thursday (Dec. 18, the first day after the conclusion of the fall semester). Hopefully being a good athlete helps him defensively. He’s been around and says he’s a quick learner. We’ll see.”
Twenty-six turnovers against North Carolina Central:
“The players that were not out there on the court (at the end of the game) probably had the same thought I did, ‘What are you doing?’ The guys that were out there were probably embarrassed.”