FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The game was listed as part of the Raycom Sports television package prior to the season, but the network is not broadcasting the game.
Arkansas is 13-10 overall and 1-9 in the Southeastern Conference while LSU is 21-4 overall and 9-1 with nine straight conference wins.
Head coach John Pelphrey met with the media to discuss the game on Monday. Following is a partial transcript of his press conference.
“This is a big game for us. LSU is in first overall in the SEC and they are playing better than anybody in our league. They are the only team (the SEC) has ranked (No. 24). I like their team a lot. They are very well-coached and efficient. They get scoring from four or five spots, and they defend and rebound in a big-time way. Any time you have more assists than turnovers, you’ll have a chance to win.
“In our last game with them (79-69 loss in Baton Rouge on Jan. 31), we didn’t challenge them much in the first half. We competed better in the second half. We need more of that second half.
“They have a good understanding of who they are. They play the right way and they have experience.
“Tasmin Mitchell is playing unbelievable. He had a huge, huge game against Mississippi State. That doesn’t surprise you. He’s a fourth-year junior. He’s always been talked about as an all-league type player and he’s doing it. He has a big body and he’s athletic.
“Bo Spencer is one of those guys who needs to be in the mix for most improved player (in the SEC). He was terrific (in the first meeting). (Marcus) Thornton really, really hurt us with his offense and rebounding, and Chris Johnson had a good game.”
Courtney Fortson, who was suspended and missed Saturday’s game against Kentucky:
“Courtney will practice (Monday). I fully expect him to have a phenomenal attitude. He has been great 90 percent of the time, and that can be said for all of them. I want him to be a great player for us. We need him to be a great player for us. If he does the correct things, he will play on Wednesday. I love Courtney Fortson. There’s not another guard in the country I want playing our point guard spot. I anticipate having him back in the starting lineup. If he is in the lineup, it means the guy who is first or second on our team in every category will be back.”
Playing without Fortson:
“That game was hard. We worked hard for a couple of days. My concern was not being able to run our offense. We did that well enough. We usually get four or five layups a game, whether that’s from Courtney or somebody else, and open shots on the perimeter. I thought Stefan Welsh did a good job. Could he have played better, yes, but all of us could have.”
“We have the responsibility to show up, work hard and try to get better. I’m not going to tell you it’s been easy. I’m sure it’s not easy for our fans. I know it’s not easy on the coach’s wife. When things aren’t going your way, you need to work harder, focus harder and encourage more. How you handle success, people watch. When adversity sets in, people watch that, too.
“I don’t talk to anyone a lot when things are going like this. Those guys (Nolan Richardson, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan) are a great frame of reference for me, but I’ve experienced something like this at South Alabama in year three. You find what you really believe in and what you want to get done, but my total focus is on trying to get ready for the next game and getting these seven or eight guys to play as well as they can.”
“It’s tough. For me, there is frustration in winning and losing. What keeps me hopeful and always upbeat is I’ve seen these guys do it. Even the other day (against Kentucky), if we take care of the ball and rebound misses, I feel like we have a chance to win if we play the game the right way. I believe we can get those things into the games. For whatever reason, in conference play, we have not done that.”
“I don’t understand it. There is an emphasis every day and we have not had much luck defending it. We’ve guarded different ways and looked at different things. We’ve had the misfortune of teams shooting well.”