FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –The Razorbacks lost at home to No. 23 LSU on Wednesday, 72-69. Arkansas is 13-11 overall and 1-10 in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina is 18-6 overall and tied for first in the Eastern Division at 7-4.
Head coach John Pelphrey is out with bronchitis, but assistant Rob Evans met with the media on Thursday to preview the game. Following is a partial transcript of the press conference.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to hit the floor and go play South Carolina. I’ve said all year that if South Carolina was not the best team in the league, they were one of the best two or three because they have great guards. Devan Downey may be the best player in the backcourt in the league. This is the only team that beat us in Bud Walton Arena last year. It will be a difficult game.
“They have experience in the frontcourt, but they don’t depend on them to do a lot of scoring. Downey is good at creating and getting things for other people. He was probably my biggest headache last year and he’s my biggest headache this year.
“They turn it over, get out-rebounded and they aren’t great at shooting free throws, but when you have great guards that control the tempo, they can make plays at the right time.”
South Carolina’s improvement from 14-18 last year to 18-6 this year:
“Experience. The only way to mature the young is to go through it and they’ve been through it. They are a lot more experienced this year than last year.”
Arkansas’ trouble holding leads:
“We need to take care of details. That is something we’ve stressed all year. Most games in most leagues will be competitive and will come down to four or five possessions. You have to block out on free throws or keep people out of the lane. Often times when we’ve had our breakdowns, we’ve had three or four young kids out there. Even on an experienced team with four seniors, if there’s one freshman, that freshman will make mistakes. With three or four freshmen out there, we may have three or four mistakes. We have to continue to shore that up.
“Any loss is tough for us. It’s difficult with an inexperienced team, especially when you keep preaching to them that we are right there. We need to continue hammering at that rock and we’ll crack it.
“We have to be demanding. We can’t let them feel sorry for themselves. If they are more worried about us they won’t worry about what has transpired. We need to worry about getting better and doing what Coach (Pelphrey) says, and everything else will take care of itself.”
Stefan Welsh injury:
“He has been banged up the last couple of weeks, but I expect him to be out there. (Against LSU) he re-injured a toe. That’s just one of those things that has been nagging him.”
Playing on the road:
“Going on the road is tough. Experienced teams win on the road, but that’s something we can do. It’s not impossible. As John would say, he expects to win.”
“We’ve got to do a better job of pursuing, especially on the offensive end. We do a pretty good job on defense. We need more from our guards, too. We’re not the biggest team in the world.
“It’s been a combination of effort and our guys are jumping; they’re just being jumped over. There’s a little bit of strength factor.”
“He’s not feeling any better. He was at the doctor’s office today. I talked to him. He’s home in bed. I don’t think he will be at practice. It’s hard to keep him down, but I hope he gets some rest so he will be ready to go.”
Devan Downey and Courtney Fortson matchup:
“It will be a great experience for Courtney. I can’t wait for Courtney to go through this year. He will look at tapes and figure out what other guys are doing and what he needs to do better.”
Fortson’s suspension for the Kentucky game:
“I thought it was the best thing that happened to him because he came back and was very coachable, he got others involved and he picked his spots to be aggressive.”