FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas travels to Starkville, Miss., for a 3 p.m. game at Mississippi State on Saturday. The game is being nationally televised by ESPN. The Razorbacks are 17-6 overall and 6-3 in the SEC, one game behind MSU (16-7, 7-2) in the SEC’s Western Division standings. Following is a partial transcript of head coach John Pelphrey’s press conference previewing the game.
“This is a big challenge. We have two days to get ready. Mississippi State is the second-best team (behind No. 4 Tennessee) in the league. They have some really good players. Jamont Gordon and Charles Rhodes are terrific, and Jarvis Varnado has a special, special skill. It will be a great environment in the Hump. I’m sure they will be looking to improve on their play from the last time we played.
“The bottom line is, they are in first and we are in second. They are at home, where they have been outstanding. It will be just like it was (at Tennessee). We have to overachieve, play defense, rebound and take care of the ball.
“You always remember the last game, but that is in the past. You can’t change the outcome. Whether we had won or lost the first time, this would still be a big challenge.
“The environment at Mississippi State has really improved. Now that is one of the harder places in the SEC to play. They are serious about it there. That’s part of the lay of the land when you play at a place like Arkansas.
“Against Varnado, you have to get deep penetration, be fundamental and go at him. You can’t go away from a shot blocker. Ben Hansbrough is an experienced guard. He’s tough, has good size, plays multiple positions and has a skill of shooting the ball. He is capable of changing games.”
“There’s nothing we can do about that one. We should have been worried about that one during the two hours we were there. If you don’t show up and play hard and well, you’ll get blown out.
“I thought our effort was pretty good. Tennessee just played better. We had a difficult time guarding them. We did a decent job taking care of the ball, but offensively we didn’t shoot a very good percentage.
“I was optimistic going into the second half. We had avoided foul trouble and basically missed all our free throws.
“Tennessee is the No. 4 team and the No. 1 RPI team in the country. You’re not going to get it done with just a good effort. You have to go above and beyond.
“Our effort was good, but our play was below average and you have to give Tennessee credit for that.”
“It goes back to our focus. By no means do I claim to have all the answers. Some games you see guys step up there and knock them down. The first half (at Tennessee) was awful. We were making aggressive moves to get there. Our inability to make free throws hurt us.”
“He had 10 rebounds in 12 minutes. We need to keep him out of foul trouble. He helps our team and has been a factor for us. He made some really good plays in the first half (at Tennessee). He did a good job making ball fakes and getting guys in the air. He has very good fundamentals around the basket. I would like to keep him on the floor.”
“Like any game, you forget about the last one, win or lose. Even if your individual performance was spectacular, you forget about it and move on.”
“He did a good job. Defensively, I feel comfortable with him. He got himself in position to get a couple of shots.”
“He has hit a few shots. It’s good to have another option. In this league, just playing up to your potential is not getting it done. To do something significant, you need to overachieve.”