Arkansas looks to rebound from two home losses

BY foxsports • February 8, 2011

John Pelphrey's words were aimed at what's next. His face, though, couldn't hide the pain of the week that was.

Perhaps the week that wasn't is a better way to put it.

The Arkansas coach did his best to look forward following the Razorbacks' second-straight home loss on Saturday, this one to Mississippi. He talked of challenges that lie ahead and made note of the fact Arkansas (14-8, 4-5 Southeastern Conference) still has eight regular-season games remaining, including seven in conference.

''Certainly, we're all disappointed, but we've got to get ready,'' Pelphrey said. ''We've got to step up and gotta go to work. There's no other alternative. The games will be played. We'll get back to getting to work and getting prepared and get energized.''

No matter how hard Pelphrey tried to mask it, however, the letdown of last week was clear in his low-key demeanor. After winning its first road game of the season on Jan. 29 at Vanderbilt, expectations were high last week as Arkansas returned home for a pair of games and a chance at a winning SEC record.

That one small step forward quickly turned into two giant leaps backward for the Razorbacks, who lost their first two games of the season in Fayetteville to Georgia and then Ole Miss. They lost on a late free throw to the Bulldogs before a late Rebels' run ended any hope on Saturday.

The losses were Arkansas' first back-to-back defeats this season and left the Razorbacks stuck on 14 wins, the same number they have finished with in each of the past two seasons. They also effectively extinguished any momentum the program had built following the win at Vanderbilt.

''It's been tough,'' Arkansas point guard Julysses Nobles said. ''Coming off the road win was good, but we let two go here.''

The Razorbacks now face a difficult road trip to Mississippi State (12-10, 4-4) on Wednesday, where they haven't won since the 1999-2000 season. Making matters worse for a program in search of its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008, Arkansas is just 6-19 in the second half of SEC play under Pelphrey in three-plus seasons.

It's a trend that continued in the opening game of the second half against Ole Miss, one Pelphrey said on Monday that he hopes to halt down the stretch this season.

''From our standpoint, last year was last year,'' Pelphrey said. ''The year before was the year before. So, I'm dealing with right now, where we are today.

''We all want to win basketball games, make no mistake about that. I think we're doing the right things to get that done. That, I guess is what gives me optimism for the next 7-8 games and the SEC Tournament.''

Pelphrey has talked all season of about avoiding the buildup of emotional highs and pitfalls that come with wins and losses, preferring to narrow his approach to the previous game and the next one. The approach worked for Arkansas when it won its first road game of the season in convincing fashion, 89-78, against the Commodores.

It didn't carry over to last week, something Pelphrey said could have been attributed to the Razorbacks' inability to handle success.

''You see people all the time who get in great positions, companies that are doing great and tomorrow they're not,'' Pelphrey said. ''It's not just in athletes one week to the next. Again, it's life.

''That maybe have been some in there, but more than anything it's those guys in the other uniforms,'' he said.

Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas' leading scorer at 13.2 points per game, had 36 points in the win at Vanderbilt but followed that with a combined 18 points in the two home losses last week. Clarke said the results may not have been consistent but the effort has, which is why he's hopeful the Razorbacks will bounce back.

''Obviously, no one likes to lose,'' Clarke said. ''I think everyone on the team hates it with a passion. Hopefully that's how you feel if you're a competitor. It's frustrating, especially with the two games we had at home that we weren't able to capitalize on, but I know we're gonna come back.

''We haven't given up,'' Clarke added. ''We're going to keep working hard.''


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