FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Razorbacks are coming off an 86-77 loss at Mississippi State while the Tigers beat Tennessee at home on Saturday, 78-77. Arkansas is 13-8 overall and 1-7 in the Southeastern Conference. Auburn is 14-9 and 3-5.
Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Monday to preview the game. Following is a partial transcript of his press conference.
“We’re excited about another chance to go on the road and get an SEC road win. That is something we want to do very badly. Everybody understands how hard it is on the road.
“Auburn is coming off a big win over Tennessee. They came in here (on Jan. 24) and shot very well. Coach (Jeff) Lebo has done a good job. We’re going to put ourselves in the best position we can to give us a chance to win. If we have a good attitude and play within the framework of the team, we can overachieve.
“(Rasheem) Barrett is playing at a high level right now. He made some great plays against Tennessee.
“Auburn and Mississippi State are eerily similar. They both have a good low post scorer, speed and they shoot from four spots. Our defensive game play will be similar; we just have to do it better.
“This is an opportunity to play and win. It’s something we have not done (win on the road in the SEC) and we want to do it.”
Playing on the road in the SEC:
“I don’t have a great frame of reference for the past (at Arkansas), but it is difficult to win on the road. It’s an attitude and a mentality, and you certainly have to have a level of play to get that done. You have to be a team on that night – better than your opponent. You can’t be as good as because the breaks are probably going to go the other way. You have to take care of the ball and play good defense. Inside the last four minutes, everything is magnified. Mistakes are harder to overcome. You have to be a playmaker on both sides of the ball. With scouting and game planning, you probably know what team is going to do what, but there’s the unknown with playmaking.”
Playing zone and man-to-man defense:
“We’ve been trying to mix it up. We want to keep guys off balance and keep them guessing.”
“That is important when things are going good or bad. Your point guard is always a guy you have to look to, so things fall on Stefan (Welsh) and Courtney (Fortson), and to older guys like Michael Washington. Everybody has to pull their own weight and try to get better.”
“It’s a feel thing. In the first half (at Mississippi State), we got the lead. There was a foul here or there, and with a free throw or time out coming up, we flipped guys in and out. In the second half, we didn’t play as many guys. There was a much different feeling to the game. Fatigue is something we have to deal with. It’s part of the game. Make no mistake, we want to play more people.”
“I think it is fine. We work hard. We just need to play better.”
“He is practicing. I do not think it is anticipated he will travel to Auburn.”
Courtney Fortson (12 steals in the last four games):
“That’s a good number of steals. With more steals and rebounds, you have a better chance to get out on the break. Courtney usually keeps his nose in there. He’s very good on defense and I think he will get better. As time goes on, he will not have to play as many minutes. Guys become better defensively as they get older, even the good ones.”
“Mike did a good job (at MSU). He got in there and got some rebounds. He’s going to be a really good player for us. He needs to continue working. His heart and effort are in the right place, and he’s a very good teammate.”
“Our pick-and-roll defense could have been better.”
“He’s played well. His defense the other day was good. We need to chop him up into little pieces and put a little of him on everybody. He’s made good shot selection and has helped run our offense. He’s been through it. He finds value in (playing defense) and takes pride in it.”