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.''