Offensively Challenged

Two teams that have combined to lose their last 10 games and not score over 60 points in any of those defeats will meet Saturday at 12:47 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena when Arkansas (14-9, 4-6) takes on LSU (10-14, 2-7), whose last win was a month ago over the Razorbacks in Baton Rouge.

Arguably, the SEC's most struggling team will be playing in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday at 12:47 p.m., but it's a toss-up on just which team that is.

Arkansas (14-8, 4-6) has lost its last three games and not scored more than 60 points in any of them.

LSU "tops" that offensively by not having scored more than 60 points in a month, a winless span of seven games that started after a 56-53 win over the Razorbacks in Baton Rouge on Jan. 12.

But Tigers head coach Trent Johnson – whose team won that game without then leading scorer Ralston Turner - thinks that regardless of the losing streak that LSU is playing its best basketball of the season.

""Arkansas is a much different basketball team from the last time we played them," Johnson said. "I think we are a lot different too…They are coming off three straight losses and we are coming off our share of losses but we are playing better. Hopefully we will come out at a high level and continue to improve."

Pelphrey, whose team shot 18 percent in the opening half of the first match-up while falling down 31-17 at halftime, agrees after watching tape of LSU fall 58-57 at home to Mississippi State and 66-60 at Ole Miss.

"They are playing their best basketball of the season," Pelphrey said. "They are healthy."

The Razorbacks are playing their worst - riding their longest losing streak of the season and will be trying for the 13th time over the past three seasons to win their 15th game.

They have gone 0-12 in those attempts so far.

"I don't know if that number is in the kids' heads or not," Pelphrey said. "Certainly I haven't thought about it a whole lot either. But we do need to go out and get a win on Saturday. We need to punch through and get that winning feeling back."

Pelphrey was asked if team chemistry had been affected by the slide – and the fact that it happened at the end of the last two seasons as well.

"I think they are (staying together)," Pelphrey said. "There is a competitive nature in everybody and winning and losing sometimes puts you on an emotional rollercoaster when you would like to stay on an even keel. We had good workouts Monday and Tuesday and had good spirit going into the Mississippi State game and got off to a good start.

"….I think the guys are doing okay now and hanging in there and ready for this challenge," Pelphrey said. "But playing well and winning would really do them some good."

The Tigers should be acclimated to Bud Walton Arena since they bused from Oxford to Memphis after the game and then flew to Fayetteville on Thursday.

Arkansas hammered LSU 87-52 last season in Fayetteville while the Tigers down the Razorbacks 65-54 later in the season in Baton Rouge.

"We didn't play well here last year," Johnson said. "It was a very noncompetitive game on our part. This is an Arkansas team that is better at home than on the road."

The Tigers are led by the freshman backcourt of 5-9 Andre Stringer (12.3) and the 6-5 Turner (12.0) with juniors Malcolm White (8.2), Storm Warren (6.2) and Matt Derenbecker (6.7) rounding out the starting line-up.

"I don't think people really understand that we've been playing the majority of league play without two of our best players in Ralston and Storm and Matt's ankle and (forward) Garrett Green's back and that's so much a part of it when you are an inexperienced team," Johnson said.

"These last three games have been an indication of what this basketball team would be like during league," Johnson added. "It's good to have them at full speed and see what we can do from here in terms of playing good basketball."

Other than freshman guard Rickey Scott, Arkansas has been healthy but not able to get much going offensively at all since a surprising 89-78 road win over No. 19 Vanderbilt on Jan 29.

The team's four leading scorers junior Rotnei Clarke (13.0), Marshawn Powell (10.6) and Delvon Johnson (9.9) and Julysess Nobles (9.) combined for just 29 points against Mississippi State.

"You are right – it has been hard," Pelphrey said. "Last night we had some opportunities, we had a chance for some really good looks from the three-point line and I think we had 13 lay-ups – two late in the game – that we didn't convert. I'm talking opportunities at the basket. We have to concentrate and be a little bit more focused."

The first 2,500 fans will receive a free Razorback mini-basketball while the halftime entertainment consists of the Air Elite National Dunk team and the introduction of the Miss University of Arkansas contestants.

The current Miss Arkansas will sign autographs on from 11 a.m. to noon on the concourse.


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