FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas is 13-12 overall and 1-11 in the Southeastern Conference while the Crimson Tide is 14-12 and 4-8.
Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Monday to preview the game. Following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“This is a big week for us. We have a chance to go to Alabama and compete on the road. Alabama is playing well. They had a huge win over Mississippi State (in double-overtime) their last time out, and we’re aware of how good Mississippi State is.
“(Interim head coach) Philip (Pearson) is doing a good job. He has good players, but that’s a big challenge. I know they have won some games. That’s a credit to him and their players. It’s not easy.
“JaMychal (Green) is a big-time player. He may be the most talented freshman in the overall big picture. He has balance, strength and scoring inside.
Arkansas’ win over Alabama in the first matchup between the two (89-80 on Jan. 29):
“I don’t know if that helps us or not. That’s a good question. I don’t know if it has any significance or not. Sometimes, what happened in the first game has no bearing on the second when you’re on someone else’s home floor. We have to find ways to make plays down the stretch. We’ve led five of our last six games in the second half. Even though we feel like there’s a long way to go, we’ve been right there.
“I don’t think we’ll get 35 free throws in Tuscaloosa. I would love to, but I doubt that will happen. I thought we did a good job sharing the ball (in the first meeting). Stefan (Welsh) and Courtney (Fortson) did a good job delivering the ball on time.”
Improvement since the first game with Alabama:
“I hope we’re better since the first game. Our experience has to start paying off. I would like for us to get better every day.”
“There are times as a coach you worry about losing confidence, but that is one thing I am not worried about with these guys. There is a believe in them as a team that we can win. We compete hard enough. I appreciate as a coach that I still get to coach strategy, schemes and game-planning. I like their attitude. I admire their resilience and appreciate their understanding of what it’s like to be a part of a team.
“This is not my first time through this, but that doesn’t make it any easier because I hurt for the players and the University of Arkansas. We all want to win.
“I don’t think we need a win for our confidence. We need a win for our piece of mind. We’re working hard and we want the reward at the end.”
Late game struggles:
“Some of it has been on offense, some on defense. At South Carolina, we’re in front of the rim with a chance to win. Other times, it may be a free throw block out. Against Tennessee, a guy hit a shot.”
Jason Henry (27 points, 12 rebounds at USC):
“Relative to him, he has grown a lot; relative to others, not a lot. He has a long way to go. I don’t say that to be negative. He’s doing the things he’s doing on talent. There were very few plays being run (at South Carolina) because of the way they play defense. He obviously has talent. He has instinct, he’s a repetitive jumper and then he goes (after rebounds). He’s not a great rebounder at the power forward spot, but he has a chance to be a great rebounder at small forward. We believe he has big-league SEC talent. He has wonderful ability. He has some gifts that don’t get passed out to everybody.”
“His attitude has been terrific. He’s had trouble reading defenses, like everybody else, but he’s done things of late in a leadership role we need him to do.”
Celebration of a Championship event this weekend honoring the 1994 national championship team:
“It’s going to be an unbelievable weekend. I’m excited and honored to be a part of this. We’re honoring our greatest coach and the national championship team. I know that team, Coach (Nolan) Richardson and the rest of the staff have to be so excited to come back and talk and reminisce. They will talk about something that will feel like it happened just a few days ago. It’s going to be great bringing them back in Bud Walton Arena to show our appreciation for winning the national championship. That’s something you never get tired of saying.”