FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –- Arkansas meets Stephen F. Austin on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. in the last game of the Jim Thorpe Classic. SFA plays Austin Peay on Friday at 7 p.m. in a game open to the public. The Razorbacks beat APSU on Wednesday, 89-80. The Arkansas-SFA game will be televised by Razorback Sports Properties (RSP), formerly ARSN. RSP affiliates are KFTA in Northwest Arkansas, KATV in Little Rock and KAIT in Jonesboro. Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Thursday to preview Saturday’s game. The Razorbacks are now 7-1 while SFA enters the tournament 6-2. Following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“This will be another very challenging game. We knew going in how outstanding Austin Peay was offensively. Stephen F. Austin is capable of scoring the ball, but they are an unbelievable defensive team. They had a tremendous team a year ago (26-6) and they basically have their whole team intact. It will be a big challenge. We need to make plays and continue to improve on offense and defense.
“It will be interesting to see them play on Friday. I think (watching SFA play APSU) could put us on edge a little bit. I think our guys will show up and watch, but we will not be taking role.
“We will have to take care of the ball because their team starts with defense. They just are not going to give up easy baskets.”
Areas to improve:
“Stefan Welsh hit a huge shot late in the game (against APSU) and Rotnei Clarke hit a huge shot late in the game, but I would like to operate a little better and shake loose to allow us to make big-time plays like they did. We also need to get better at our angles and screening.”
Pressing against Austin Peay:
“We needed something different with the way the matchups went. We had Marcus Britt on Wes Channels, one of their best players. We wanted to see what their press offense was going to be, we wanted to see where we are and I think our team is better pressing when we have a chance to set up.
“Hopefully there will come a day in time where every possession would be that way. Who knows, maybe we’ll get good enough where we can do it off misses. Coach (Nolan) Richardson was able to do that.
“It does bring foul trouble into play, and right now with our depth, that’s a problem.”
Marcus Britt in the starting lineup:
“We were trying to find out what makes us play well. Stefan Welsh still got his minutes and had a chance to impact the game. Forget starting or not starting. He had a big impact. It starts with a pebble and becomes an avalanche. I think sometimes young players all want to be on the front page or be the leading scorer. Last night, Brandon Moore was the most important guy. He had one rebound and two points, but I’ve brought up his name more than anybody because he helped us win.
“Stefan screened Rotnei’s guy to help (Clarke) get off that shot (three in final two minutes to extend 77-73 lead to 80-73).
“I told Brandon last night is over and done with. We’ll practice Thursday and Friday, and shoot on Saturday and we’ll see how it goes. Mike Washington and Mike Sanchez have earned the right to go in there. The things I appreciate about Brandon are his good attitude, he works hard and his eyes are open.
“I would say Marcus will start again on Saturday, but I’m pleased with Stefan. I thought he played well.”
“I think it will take some time (to see what he can do). I’m interested in seeing how it goes. We’re probably not going to learn everything I need to know. It’s going to be a process. He should be in uniform on Saturday. It definitely does not hurt having him out here. I didn’t ask him why he wanted to play. During the summer, there was some uncertainty with Jason Henry and Montrell McDonald wasn’t here. With our program where it is in terms of level and depth, we were willing to explore opportunities.”
“I’m proud of those guys for getting that done. I would still like to find a way to get the ball in (Rotnei’s) hands. Now we have to get it done again the next time.”