FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Razorback basketball team will travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss Tuesday in a nationally televised game on ESPN with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. Arkansas defeated then-No. 18/14 Vanderbilt, 78-73, at Bud Walton Arena last time out to push its record to 19-9 overall and 8-6 in SEC play. The Rebels (19-9, 5-9) are coming off a 91-88 win Saturday over Alabama. The following is a partial transcript of head coach John Pelphrey’s press conference previewing the game.
“Obviously, this is a big game for the Razorbacks on the road. We have another opportunity to go out and see what kind of progress we’re making in terms of giving ourselves a chance to compete on the road and, potentially, compete for a win.
“Ole Miss is a basketball team that is very good. We understand the season they’ve had in terms of their great start. Everybody finds tough sledding in conference play. I think if they have a strong finish to their season and do some of the things in March that Arkansas did last year with the SEC Tournament, I’m sure they feel like they have a chance to compete for a lot as well, in terms of post-season play.
“We will be getting a ready basketball team in Ole Miss and on top of all that, as if that wasn’t motivation enough, it’s Senior Night for them as well. We’ll have to play well there in another difficult environment to play in. I think this team is one of the fastest teams we’ll play. They have speed and shooting from the backcourt and size, strength and toughness up front to go along with depth.”
Playing on the road:
“Outside of Baylor, outside of Auburn, outside of LSU, we haven’t competed well enough on the road to win. We competed for 38 minutes at Kentucky and had chances there late but couldn’t do it. We competed in the second half against Mississippi State, competed in the first half against Tennessee and didn’t compete at all at Alabama, so we need to figure out. We’re running out of opportunities to get road wins.”
“Let’s not complicate the fact. We have history that says Arkansas hasn’t competed well on the road and that needs to change. That doesn’t mean you’re going to win every time, but go compete. If you compete the right way, you give yourself a chance. I don’t feel like we do that all the time.
“That’s something I want to change. I want to see us do better. I don’t think it has anything to do with a pre-game meal or what time we’re going to bed. We don’t need to go see a movie or go bowling. There may be a point in time where we will do that. Our problem is between our ears, that six-inch playing field we talked about back in August.”
“You watch Kentucky go the other day (against Tennessee). You seem them compete against the best team in our league, and one of the best teams in the country, being down a guy. They’re very well coached and there’s a lot of pride in that uniform.
“Well, there’s a lot of pride in what have, too. Regardless of who laces them up or where it’s at, there’s an expectancy level to compete. That doesn’t mean you’re winning every time, but you give yourself a chance. You respect everyone and fear no man. That’s more than talk. We have some work to do. We know where we are. We know who we are. We know where we want to get to and we’re not there yet.”
Playing against Ole Miss:
“(Ole Miss) chases the ball as well as, if not better than, anyone in our league. Chris Warren is awesome. He’s coming off a 25-point performance against Alabama. We got our fill of him here. He’s a special player.
“(Eniel) Polynice is as good as anybody in our league at driving the ball, getting fouls and scoring. He’s a tremendous transition player.”
Quick turnaround after Saturday’s game:
“I wasn’t looking forward to a day off. I knew what I was going to do, win or lose, after Vanderbilt. I didn’t want to give those guys a day off so they could get patted on the back and told how great they are. That’s not what they need. They need to practice. They need to try to stay on edge and stay focused. They need to be encouraged to overachieve—not to play at their potential, but play above it.”
Assistant coach Rob Evans (head coach at Ole Miss from 1993-98):
“I was an assistant coach at Florida (when Rob Evans was head coach at Ole Miss). For those two western division championships (for Ole Miss in 1997 and 1998), I was at Florida. They ran over us down there. That was the second year. The first year, they may have clinched in our building.”
“Even though they weren’t really pressing, you couldn’t run an offense. They were under your skirt and you just couldn’t get them off you. They played one-on-one in the post, but you couldn’t get it there. It was very, very difficult.”
“I think there will be some emotions there. How bad? I don’t know. He’s going to walk back into that building and he probably doesn’t know yet all the things that will come back to him. It’s bizarre when you go back to a place where you spent time and invested your life. Turning a corner down a hallway, some smell, walking down a hallway and looking up a tunnel—you just never know what that stuff will trigger.”
Recent history (1-10 in last 11 games) in Oxford:
“They’ve had good basketball teams. It is life on the road in the SEC. Obviously, those numbers won’t have an effect on tomorrow night.”