Arkansas is finally getting its shot in the DirecTV Big East-SEC Challenge and its opponent on Wednesday night is a wounded, but dangerous foe according to Razorback head coach John Pelphrey.
That would be Seton Hall, who has been without leading scorer Jeremy Hazell (24 points per game) for the past three contests due to a broken wrist.
The 6-5 guard will still be on the shelf when the Pirates (3-3) and Razorbacks (5-1) battle at Louisville's Freedom Hall in a 6 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPN2.
"They are going to play their best game against us," Pelphrey said. "They have had time, three games and a week of practice since he got hurt."
Kentucky and Notre Dame play in the nightcap of the doubleheader.
The Arkansas coach, whose team finally makes its debut in the fourth version of the event, expects to see an up-tempo, high-scoring game between squad and Seton Hall.
"I think it will be a very fast-paced game, a lot of up and down," Pelphrey said. I think that they will be fast-breaking, they will press a little bit, they are going to change some defense in the half court. I think both teams are going to be racing up and down the court."
The Pirates are 1-2 since Hazell broke his wrist in an 83-78 win over Alabama in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands.
They lost to Xavier (57-52) and Clemson (64-58 in OT) to finish up the Paradise Jam and then downed Saint Peter's (69-49) in their last game back on Nov. 29.
"They have played well at times and they are going to get better with that (playing without Hazell) as time goes by," Pelphrey said. "It is pretty difficult to replace 24 points a game, though."
Seton Hall is coached by Kevin Willard, a former Iona head coach whose dad Ralph was an assistant for Rick Pitino at Kentucky.
"This will be a really good basketball team in terms of having to play well both offensively and defensively," Pelphrey said. "Kevin is an outstanding coach and I think Seton Hall is a very talented basketball team. I know Hazell is out, but obviously they have a few other guys. We have had a chance to coach against some of their other guys actually."
Those would be former Ole Miss player Eniel Polynice, who actually played for the Rebels last season, and former Missouri player Keon Lawrence.
Polynice is starting in place of Hazell and is averaging 4.3 points in 16 minutes of action while Lawrence comes off the bench and is averaging 2.7 points in just over 20 minutes per game on the court.
Polynice joins 6-6, 230-pound senior forward Jeff Robinson (12.8, 6.3), 6-8, 236-pound junior forward Herb Pope (8.5. 6.8), 6-6, 205-pound freshman Fuquan Edwin (6.2) and 6-0 junior point guard Jordan Theodore (9.7).
"We are well aware of how talented they are and how good they are," Pelphrey said. "We will have to be good in all facets of the game – taking care of the basketball, being able to not turn it over, get a good quality shot, being able to play against both man and zone and from a defensive side of it, we will have to be at our best because they have experienced guards and explosive guards, size and capable of shooting and driving the ball from the power forward spot."
Arkansas should have senior small forward Jemal Farmer back after missing Saturday's 75-60 win over Troy with an illness.
Both he and Marshawn Powell, continuing to get in condition after breaking his foot, practiced on Sunday.
Razorback junior guard Rotnei Clarke (16.5) is excited about playing the Pirates.
"Both teams are obviously going to be representing their conferences to the best of their abilities," Clarke said. "It is exciting to play a team we normally wouldn't play out of the Big East."
The game will be held at a place Pelphrey is familiar with, but not in a city that the former Kentucky Wildcat necessarily loves.
"I have had a chance to play there in Southern Indiana a little bit a few years when I was down there," Pelphrey said. "We don't really claim that as part of the state.
"It will be good to get back there and we will have a lot of family and friends there," Pelphrey said. "It is a great arena. I can remember from my playing days that is a great, great place to shoot the basketball."
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