After a week of being more students than athletes, Arkansas finally gets back on the basketball court Wednesday night.
The Razorbacks (6-1) will be trying to win their fourth straight game when they host Mississippi Valley State (1-7) in a 7 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
It will mark the first time Arkansas has played since last Wednesday's 71-62 win over Seton Hall at Louisville's Freedom Hall in the Big East/Challenge and then having finals.
"This will be a really difficult game for us coming out of finals," Razorback head coach John Pelphrey said. "…As a coach there is always something that concerns you. When we have as much going on as we do right now, it is a concern. We are going to have to make sure we are focused and don't get distracted."
Mississippi Valley State, coached by former Pelphrey teammate Sean Woods, is coming off a 91-71 loss to Butler on Saturday and a 101-69 beatdown at Ole Miss on Monday night.
"I certainly am very familiar with their coach and I think that their team has obviously had a very challenging schedule as a lot of teams do in the non-conference," Pelphrey said. "…Obviously you don't like it (playing a former teammate), but scheduling is hard. I obviously have a lot of emotions with Sean and we have shared a lot of the same ground together, been in a lot of battles. He's a classmate. He's a teammate. I care about him, he's a part of the family and I have a lot of respect for him and how hard he is working."
The Delta Devils will have a couple of names that should be familiar to Arkansas fans in former fall 2007 Razorback signee Terrence Joyner (6-3) and former UA-Fort Smith guard D'Angelo Jackson (6-1).
Joyner, the former Genesis One (MS) standout who spent a year each at New Mexico State and the College of Eastern Utah, leads the team with 11 points per game while Jackson is next at 9.2 points an outing and had 20 against the Rebels.
"They are very, very capable at the guard spot," Pelphrey said. "They have good speed and quickness and shooting. They shot the lights out versus Georgia (a 72-70 loss)."
That pair is joined in the starting line-up by 6-9, 225-pound center Jason Holmes, 6-4 junior Falando Jones and senior Orlando Smith (6-5, 210).
Mississippi Valley's best outing this season was in that loss to Georgia, who was without star Trey Thompkins, while its win came against Georgia Southern (75-64).
The Delta Devils have also suffered losses to at Indiana (71-54), at St. Mary's (87-52) and Liberty (64-58).
"They have got a couple of frontcourt guys who are more than capable of getting us in foul trouble," Pelphrey said. "We have to play well. We will have to be alert, be on edge because of their three-point shooting and some of the physicality and athleticism they have around the basket."
Arkansas center Delvon Johnson (11.6, 9.1) is shooting 58 percent from the field and leads the SEC and third nationally in blocked shots with an average of 4.1 a game.
He has swatted 29 shots away while fellow frontcourt player Glenn Bryant has rejected 17 himself for Razorbacks, who lead the SEC with 56 blocks.
"I feel like that is a part of my game that I am good at," Johnson said. "I read the offense and I help the guards out….It is something I worked on in the offseason and something I have been able to do, but I am just showing it now."
Johnson had 10 points, 12 rebounds and 8 blocks in the win over Seton Hall.
"I just too what they gave me," Johnson said. "When I had the ball, they were doubling me so I knew I wasn't going to have a big scoring night so I was just trying to look for my teammates. As far as blocks and rebounds, I was just trying to protect the rim and do whatever I can to help my team win."
Marshawn Powell, injured this summer, had his best game of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Seton Hall as he rounds into conditioning.
"He is going hard and hopefully another week to 10 days of good conditioning and practicing is really going to help," Pelphrey said.
Johnson said Arkansas is not getting over confident with its play so far and must keep improving.
"We are still as hungry as we were from game one," Johnson said. "We just have to keep that hunger ad keep winning games."
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