FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- Arkansas’ men’s basketball team plays host to Northwestern State on Saturday at 5:05 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN2. The Razorbacks are 8-1 following Saturday’s win over Stephen F. Austin in the championship game of the Jim Thorpe Classic. Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media to preview the NSU (8-4)game. Following is a partial transcript of that press conference.
“In the first half against Stephen F. Austin, we were as good as we have been all year in our man-to-man defense and in our zone situations. How we reacted to the ball was a good as it’s been all year. Offensively, Michael Washington (tournament MVP) and Courtney Fortson (all-tournament team) obviously got a lot of good things done for themselves and everyone else. It was a good effort.”
“This is a really important game. These guys have had success in recent years playing people like us. They’ve been to Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. This year, they’ve played at Indiana, LSU and Miami, and they won in the NCAA Tournament two years ago. Coach (Mike) McConathy knows what he’s doing. With the schedule they’ve played, they’re still above .500 (7-4).”
Courtney Fortson scoring, rebounds, assists, turnovers:
“When you look at the body of work, you’ll take the turnovers. I know he wants to have a great assist-to-turnover ratio, and he will. Some of it is on him, but some of those are borderline. Two people are involved. A lot of that comes from not playing together for very long. As much as he’s had the ball in his hands, he hasn’t turned it over that much.
“He’s worked hard on his perimeter shooting. He’s smart with what he takes. He doesn’t jack up a lot of threes or jump shots. The way he plays and what he tries to get done, his shooting percentage (.510) does not surprise me.”
“After the last two games, we are better. I’m pleased with the fact that we played our two best games coming off finals and going into the Christmas break. We need to be able to meet these challenges to give us a chance to at least talk about these next four games.
“I would say our record (8-1) is where we had hoped to be.”
Michael Sanchez fouls:
“He needs to get better at dealing with it. Over half of our games he’s been in severe foul trouble. It’s keeping him from playing to his potential and that’s keeping our team from playing to its potential.”
Workouts for players during the break:
“I told them to go run, shoot, lift weights, but not to play. I don’t want them to jam a finger or something else.”
Arkansas’ rebounding margin (+12.4):
“Michael Washington is a big part of that, and you can put Courtney Fortson in there, too. We lost a tremendous about of our rebounding from last year, with the seniors and with Patrick Beverley. I am surprised, but it will get a lot more challenging.”