FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas finished the regular season 20-10 overall and second in the SEC’s Western Division at 9-7 to earn a bye in the first round of this week’s SEC Tournament in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Razorbacks face the Vanderbilt (25-6)/Auburn (14-15) winner on Friday at 2:15 (central) in a game televised by Raycom Sports. Following is a partial transcript of head coach John Pelphrey’s press conference previewing the tournament.
“First, I want to congratulate Sonny Weems (first-team All-SEC) and Steven Hill (all-defensive team) for making some of the all-conference teams.
“Sonny is very deserving. Any time you make first-team all-league in a league like this, that shows a lot of respect from the people you play against. Sonny has gotten better since the beginning of the year. Anytime you coach him, he says ‘yes sir’ and goes out and gives great effort. There’s a great lesson in that.
“Steven is on the defensive team and that’s what he does. Last year he was the defensive player of the year. He is certainly our best defensive player and he’s done it again. He has the respect of the coaches and the media.”
“He’s spoiled us a little because he’s capable of making some tough shots. I’m not worried about him scoring the ball. I want to see him continue having an impact on the game if he is not scoring. He has a mental toughness to him. Everybody thinks he’s laid back. Most of us get to a boiling point and we break something. I think that shows toughness he has.”
Not knowing who Arkansas is playing:
“I’m pretty comfortable with what is going on right now. We have the opportunity to cover a lot of ground. With regards to who we’re playing, it still feels like we just played both of them.”
Vanderbilt and Auburn:
“They are uniquely different.
“Auburn is the toughest matchup in the league. Quan Prowell is strong and athletic, and Frank Tolbert is a handful. Darian (Townes), Steven (Hill) and Michael Washington – there’s no one on their team that looks like them, so who do they guard? If you go zone, they shoot threes and it comes down to if they make them or not.
“For Vanderbilt, Shan Foster is the best player in the league. He’s scary. A.J. Ogilvy is a terrific, terrific player. They can go inside or outside. We’ll have to try to deny Foster. No one guy can lock up on him. Everybody will get a chance.
“Both (teams) are very well coached. All three of those teams (including Arkansas) had no success on the road, so it will be interesting.”
Arkansas fans in Atlanta:
“Tradition says there will be a large contingent of Razorback fans there and that could turn a neutral site game into more of a home game. If we have a lot of people there cheering for our guys, that will have an impact. We need to play better and everybody needs to be on the same page. That all needs to happen right now.”
Off day before while the opponent will have played on Thursday:
“We will not change our style of play. We typically play eight to nine guys and 10 on occasion.”
Any advantage in playing a team you’ve already beaten:
“I don’t know. We could have a conversation for two or three days, but it doesn’t matter. Once the game starts, the team that plays the best will win.”
“He’s made a lot of progress in the last 10 days to two weeks. When your attitude is in the right place and you accept coaching, you usually play well. If we didn’t have him the other night (against Auburn), we may not have won that game.”
The SEC Tournament for players:
“We’ll try to keep it as normal as possible. We’ll practice there the day before the game instead of here and we’ll be gone a little longer, but we’ll have the same amount of film work and meetings.”
The tournament in general:
“A lot could potentially happen. South Alabama got beat and Gonzaga got beat (Monday in conference tournaments). Everybody is aware of those things, but it can’t do anything for us. All we can do is communicate to our guys and try to get them to play as well as they can.”
Playing at a neutral site as opposed to playing a road game:
“(Neutral sites) have been a little different than on the road, but we’ve struggled in a couple of performances there, too.
“Our team needs to be on edge and hungry. Everybody needs to kick something into the pot and contribute. We can’t just wait for Sonny or Patrick on somebody else to do something. We need to play and focus like the next two minutes could be our last.”