Arkansas’ road woes continue in SEC at LSU

John Pelphrey sounded more like a parent laying down a guilt
trip than a basketball coach earlier this week.

Two days before Arkansas’ opening road game of the Southeastern
Conference season at LSU, the Razorbacks coach began his news
conference with a bit of a history lesson. He didn’t limit the
lesson to recent history, either.

Rather than focus on its recent conference road struggles,
Pelphrey turned back the clock and invoked memories of its success.
That was no easy task, given that Arkansas hasn’t had a winning
road record in the SEC since it finished as national runner-up
under then-coach Nolan Richardson during the 1994-95 season.

”Obviously, our history and our past has been tremendous on the
road,” Pelphrey said. But in the ”last eight, nine, 10 years, it
has not been that good on the road.

”If we want to compete and do some of the things that people
who have come before us have done, then we need to learn to go and
handle all those types of things.”

The result of Pelphrey’s history lesson? The Razorbacks fell
behind 31-17 at halftime at LSU, a deficit that proved too large to
overcome. They shot just 33.3 percent from the field in the narrow
loss, including 2 of 20 from 3-point range.

The road loss is nothing new for Arkansas, which is 4-21 away
from Fayetteville under the current coach, though their road woes
go much farther back than his 3 1/2 seasons.

Under Pelphrey’s predecessor, Stan Heath, Arkansas was 7-33 in
five seasons on the road in conference play. Even during
Richardson’s final seven seasons, the Razorbacks couldn’t finish so
much as .500 on the road, going 17-56.

This season, Arkansas (11-4, 1-1) played only one true road game
in nonconference play. That resulted in a 33-point loss at Texas,
the worst of Pelphrey’s career at Arkansas, and the coach bristled
when questioned about Arkansas’ lack of nonconference road games on
Thursday.

”I’m sure you’ve heard of Texas, right?” Pelphrey said.
”That’s pretty hostile. That’s as good as it gets.”

Arkansas point guard Jeff Peterson struggled at LSU, finishing 1
of 8 from the floor, but the junior said the Razorbacks’
nonconference schedule prepared them for SEC play. In addition to
playing at Texas, Arkansas also played Seton Hall and Texas A&M
at neutral sites, defeating the Pirates and losing in overtime to
the Aggies.

”It’s just a whole different vibe (on the road),” Peterson
said. ”You’ve got to be that much more focused on every single
play, which we weren’t. So, I think that’s the reason we came up
short (at LSU) is because we weren’t consistent enough.”

The good news for Arkansas is that it returns home Saturday to
face Alabama (10-6, 2-0). The Razorbacks are 10-0 at home this
season, including last week’s 68-65 victory over Tennessee, which
followed the loss at Texas.

”It’s always good to play at home,” Arkansas senior Delvon
Johnson said. ”It’s your home and you’re used to everything. We
want to show people we can bounce back from a tough loss, just like
we did against Tennessee after the Texas loss.”

Alabama has already earned one quality road win in conference
play, defeating Mississippi State on the road last week. It’s a
fact Pelphrey is well aware of, along with Arkansas’ past history
of success. Now he would just like to find a way to carry that
history forward to today.

”I have expectations, whether we had the past or not,”
Pelphrey said. ”It’s a point of reference, certainly for me. If we
had not, we’d be talking about other scenarios to show how
important it is and our desire to win on the road.

”The expectations that I have far exceed the fan base.”