FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –Arkansas makes its third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament when the Razorbacks, seeded ninth, face eighth-seeded Indiana on Friday in Raleigh, N.C. Arkansas is 22-11 overall after reaching the finals of the SEC Tournament over the weekend. The Hoosiers are 25-7 and ranked No. 24 in the nation after finishing third in the Big Ten. Following is a partial transcript of head coach John Pelphrey’s press conference previewing the game.
“We feel very fortunate to make the field of 65 and we have a chance to play in a basketball hotbed with North Carolina and in Raleigh. Of course we are playing Indiana, which is one of the most storied programs in all of basketball. For me, growing up close to Indiana, I followed them and am familiar with them and Coach (Bobby) Knight and all the championships.
“They have outstanding players and they are a very good team, and I had a chance to compete against Dan Dakich last year when he was the head coach at Bowling Green.
“D.J. White is a really, really good player. He’s from Alabama so I’m familiar with him.
“Eric Gordon is a phenomenal scorer and he gets to the free throw line an amazing number of times. He just comes at you. He’s explosive off the bounce and can beat two or three guys. There will not be only one guy guarding him. That’s not possible. It will have to be two or three guys. He’s taken 270 free throws and made 229. Our leading scorer has taken 70 on the year. You can add Patrick (Beverley) and Sonny (Weems) together and they are still behind.
“They’ve stuck together and handled adversity, and done it in a good way. I think they are better than an eight seed, but nobody asked me.”
“You have to understand, when you get to this time of the year, people forget everything else. He’s played well and we need that again. I like him. If I had the chance to go through it and coach Darian again, I would do it.”
Improved play of the frontcourt:
“I don’t know if this is the time to stop and reflect. They are going to be challenged. They’ll be going against guys as good as anybody in America. We will need everything they have.”
NCAA losses the last two years:
“We haven’t talked about that a lot. There have been some conversations over the course of the season. The guys understand this is the last go-around for them. When you hear the name Indiana, you understand you have your hands full. We’re also playing in a time frame where the whole country can see it.”
Playing flat in the first round last year:
“I don’t understand why, but as a coach, I worry about it.”
“He hurt a knee in practice. He may not practice again later today, but I do not anticipate that keeping him out.”
“I think Gary is making progress. He and Stefan (Welsh) both are. Without those guys, we don’t win as many games as we do or get to the championship game (of the SEC Tournament). We need them to play well for us to have any chance against Indiana.”
Playing the late game on the second day of the tournament:
“I’m sure we will see some heartache and some elation, and we should be eager to get out and play. Everybody understands it’s a one-and-done day.”
Christain Laettner shot that gave Duke a 104-103 win over Kentucky in the regional finals of the 1992 NCAA Tournament:
“I’ve had a lot of therapy over the years. It’s a little different 15 or 16 years later. I’ve realized my life would not be any better had it not gone in. I was overseas playing in Spain and a guy from Sports Illustrated tracked me down and asked me about it. I realized that I couldn’t get away from it.
“I feel very fortunate, but yes, it (replays of the shot) are everywhere. I really thought I had my hands on the ball and he took it away, but if you watch it, that’s not the case.”
Loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament championship game:
“I’m fine today. We had a very good practice. I don’t think the guys have ever had a problem being resilient. How many times have they been given up for dead and then come back?”
Setting a school record for wins by a first-year coach and becoming the first first-year coach to take Arkansas into a post-season tournament:
“During the season, I can’t even tell you what is going on outside. If you win one game or lose one game, there’s not a lot of difference because you immediately move to the next one.
“For anything we accomplish, the credit goes to having good players and good assistant coaches.”