FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- Coming off Tuesday’s win over No. 4 Oklahoma, Arkansas’ men’s basketball team travels to North Little Rock to play host to North Texas in a 2:05 p.m. game on Saturday. The game is being televised by Razorback Sports Properties. RSP affiliates are KATV in Little Rock, KFTA in Northwest Arkansas and KAIT in Jonesboro.
Arkansas is 10-1 following the 96-88 victory over the No. 4 Sooners. UNT is 8-5 after going 20-11 last year. Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Thursday to preview Saturday’s game. Here is a partial transcript of that press conference.
“We’re looking forward to going to North Little Rock, and the chance to play and compete. Last year, we had successful moments but some disappointments as well. One disappointment that stands out in my mind is not being able to deliver in North Little Rock. We had a great crowd and environment. I understand what Coach (Eddie) Sutton was doing in taking the team to the people. This is an opportunity to go there and play well, and we need to.
“On the list or reasons this game is important, we’ve had a recent lack of success in North Little Rock, we have a lot to play for and it’s good for us because we have to travel.
“The Razorbacks don’t like to hear 2-5 in anything (record in last seven games in Alltel Arena), unless that is what somebody is against us.”
“North Texas has good guard play and they are athletic. I think they are first in the Sun Belt Conference in three-point shooting and offensive rebounding. If we play well, we’ll have a chance to win.
“I know (head coach) Johnny Jones very well. He was at LSU a long time as an assistant. He’s a great guy and he’s done a great job.”
Coming off the Oklahoma victory:
“It will be interesting to see how our guys handle coming off what in their mind is a big game. They are all big. This is a chance to learn and get better. We’ll see if they understand. We all have good days and bad days and we’ll see how we respond to a good day. We all know how important this game is.
“We had a lot of breakdowns in our zone and in making our reads. Had it not been for our lead, those could have cost us.”
New Year’s Eve practice:
“We had practice at 11 last night, so we were together for New Year’s. That’s not my favorite holiday. Nothing good happens after midnight. We were finished by one or so. We cleaned up from the Oklahoma game, some good and bad things. We did some shooting and organizational things.”
Confidence to play Marcus Monk 20 minutes against OU:
“Maybe I’m crazy, but we didn’t have a lot of choices. Brandon Moore and Andre Clark are not quite ready, and we had the golfer (Stephen Cox) and the football player (Monk).
“Marcus looks you in the eye and says ‘yes sir.’ He gives good effort and he has good basketball instincts that he gets into the game. I was surprised he could physically compete inside with their guys, and I was a little surprised with his help defense and his 6-of-6 on free throws. He focuses on the right things. His attitude is in the right place. Maybe it’s helped that he’s played in front of 80 to 85,000 people and he’s had to go across the middle to make catches.
“He will not be required to play 30 minutes. He got winded early but then got into a comfort zone. He’s come a long way in the two weeks he’s been practicing.”
Toughness of Courtney Fortson:
“I’ve seen a few guys like that. There was a guy like that here on the national championship team (Corey Beck). We always felt confident as a coaching staff that there wouldn’t be anyone tougher and he has a habit of winning. His greatest challenges are still to come. He’s played well and he’s impacted winning at Arkansas, but he has to deal with success.”
“He’s been very good since we took him out of the starting lineup. His attitude is better. He’s found a way to catch, jump and shoot jump shots and he’s in rhythm. He has high knowledge of our system and he needs to keep communicating.
“He and Michael Washington have not played the roles they are playing now or had the success they’re now having. They will also be challenged.”