FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –The St. Pete Times Forum (21,655) is the site of the 2009 tournament. The Razorbacks and Gators are meeting for the fourth time in the SEC Tournament and the third time in the last four years. This year’s meeting is the fourth game of the first day.
Arkansas is 14-15 overall while the Gators are 22-9. Florida won this year’s first meeting in Gainesville on Jan. 17, 80-65.
Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey met with the media on Monday to preview the tournament. Following is a partial transcript of his press conference.
“It’s always exciting to be a part of a tournament-type atmosphere and to be in the post-season. It’s a big challenge playing the Gators, especially in their home state. I’m sure a lot of their fans will be there, plus Florida is very good.
“They have arguably the best guard in the league in (6-6 sophomore) Nick Calathes. He puts a lot of pressure on you defensively because of the way he reads defenses. The velocity he throws passes makes it difficult to get back and guard the shooter. Very few guys can get to the fourth option (on offense) and no one in the country does it better than him.
“Defensively, they are better now than when we first played.”
First meeting with Florida:
“They missed a lot of opportunities in the first half. We have to limit their second opportunities.
“They get a lot of long rebounds. We have to get to the elbows and get loose change. A lot of times they have three guards out there so those guys are able to move. They’ve done a good job this year capitalizing on second chances.”
Taking a young team to its first tournament:
“They know it’s a one-and-done situation. We’ve talked about it. We will have to win four games.
“There is excitement in being part of a tournament. There’s nothing like winning a game and being able to stay around for another day.
“We have guys who played four games two years ago. They won three of those. Last year, we played against Georgia, which won four games, so we’ve seen it from both sides. I’m sure those guys will talk for the next few days about what can happen.”
“I have been pleased with the resiliency of this team to come back and work. I anticipate us being excited and playing our best game of the year.”
Courtney Fortson (27 shot attempts at Vanderbilt):
“He made some big-time plays in the first half to keep us in it. Foul trouble (on Michael Washington) didn’t help. (Fortson) had one of those special halves. In the second half, they did a good job getting guys around him and forcing tough shots, and he didn’t do a good job reading the defense.
“Twenty-seven shots are too many, but he was working hard and trying to get in there. I didn’t realize he had that many.”
SEC Tournament sites:
“I don’t have an opinion. I like Atlanta because it’s a much shorter flight and it’s probably a little more neutral. It will be interesting to see how neutral it is for us playing Florida (in Tampa).”
“I’ve noticed a couple of things. I’m surprised guards haven’t had as much of an impact. The deeper line has caused some problems stepping out of bounds on the sideline (in the corners). It has also affected power forwards. Fewer power forwards are shooting threes and even fewer centers.”
Michael Washington foul trouble:
“Teams are going to go at him. That’s part of it. He’s done it before. It’s on him. He’s experienced. We’ll talk to him. We need him to go about 35 minutes.”