Turning Back The Clock

Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey and Kentucky bench boss John Calipari both expect a great atmosphere Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena when the Razorbacks (16-10, 5-7) host the No. 22 Wildcats (19-7, 7-5) - who have won the last 10 games in the series.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari expects Wednesday to be turn back the clock night at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey is sincerely hoping that is the case.

"I anticipate a large crowd and certainly we have been inspired many, many times by Razorback nation and we will need that again," noted Pelphrey, who played for the Wildcats. "We all understand how good Kentucky is, their personnel, their defense, the way they rebound the ball and how fast they are in transition. We need a special environment – no doubt about that."

The Razorbacks (16-10, 5-7) will host the No. 22 Wildcats (19-7, 7-5) at 7 p.m. in the latest installment of a series in which Arkansas has lost the last 10 games.

The last Arkansas victory over Kentucky was 82-78 in 2001 at Bud Walton Arena in a game where Joe Johnson had 18 points and Jannero Pargo 16 for Nolan Richardson's Razorbacks.

Keith Bogans and Tayshaun Prince were the stars for the Wildcats that day back during the end of an era where the two schools were the SEC's best programs.

It has not been that way lately, punctuated by Kentucky's 101-70 thrashing of Arkansas last season. The Wildcats led 57-27 at half and 75-29 with 15 minutes left in the contest.

"For awhile there was a great rivalry between the schools because of how great they were," Pelphrey said. "…There were certainly some great games between the two schools. It has been a number of days since we have beat Kentucky. I think it would be a big deal if we can get a win and it wouldn't matter who we were playing, but especially against them."

After drawing a season low of 5,121 fans in its last home game with Florida A&M, the Razorbacks should have their largest crowd of the season against the Wildcats.

Calipari – whose last visit to Bud Walton Arena was with Memphis back in 2003 when the Tigers won 72-67 – anticipates a raucous crowd.

"It will be wild," Calipari said. "It may have been 8 or 10 years ago that we were in Arkansas…but all I can tell you is that it is a great arena, it is a great environment, it is a great college campus and it is going to be a hard game for us."

After watching tape, Calipari said he respects the Razorbacks.

"I think they play really hard, I think they have talent at guards and their big people are huge," Calipari said. "They are very athletic, they sprint the ball up the court, they run good stuff in the half court. They are a good team."

Calipari is bringing in a team that is talent-laded and ranked, but just 1-5 on the road this season in part because of a short bench and youth.

"We are a very young, inexperienced team," Calipari said. "We are not playing a whole lot of people and we don't have a whole lot of room for error. I still like my team and I think we are a good team, but you get on the road and – I'm not knowing this for a fact but I imagine the Arkansas is sold out…Every game we play is that way and other teams are playing great."

While Kentucky has won just one of six games away from Rupp in league play, with the five losses by an average of 3.2 points.

"I don't know that they have necessarily played poorly," Pelphrey said. "I think the other teams have played well."

Calipari doesn't want to hear about close losses.

"We are what our record says we are," Calipari said. "I will tell you that everybody keeps saying ‘we only lost this one by two and we were up one, but we were down 20 against Alabama.

"…At Florida we were down 15, we were down 11 or 12 to Mississippi," Calipari added. "Yes, in those games we came back and made it a game but we were down big."

Calipari notes that his team and Mike Anderson's Missouri squad share a similar trait.

"There are a couple of us out there – I think Missouri is 1-5 on the road," Calipari said. "There are a couple of us that get on the road and either the other team is really playing well and you are not playing quite well enough to win. We are working on psyche. I am not worried about anything else, but my team."

For the second straight year, Kentucky is powered by freshmen with the trio of 6-8 forward Terrence Jones (17.9, 9.1), 6-3 point guard Brandon Knight (17.4) and 6-4 shooting guard Doron Lamb (13.8) the team's three leading scorers.

"I think they have done great," Pelphrey said. "…You look at what these young men have done and they have come in and not only competed, they have done it at Kentucky, the place that has won more games than anybody else in the history of college basketball. They have been outstanding. They have more than lived up to their billing."

Jones and Knight join 6-7 junior Darius Miller (10.3), 6-6 junior DeAndre Liggins (8.7) and 6-10 senior center Josh Harrellson in the starting line-up with Lamb coming off the bench.

No one else plays over an average of 10 minutes a game for the Wildcats this season.

"Their team is dynamic in terms of talent and being able to score at the rim, from the 3-point line, just playing very well," Pelphrey said.

Arkansas led at Alabama 49-44 with 12 minutes left on Saturday night, but then fell victim to a 25-7 run by the Crimson Tide to end the game.

"I thought we went in to Alabama against arguably the best team in our league to this point and time and really competed hard," Pelphrey said. "I thought our kids really gave it up, I thought we handled runs, I thought we handle the crowd – all those things.

"We put ourselves in a position to potentially go get that game down the stretch," Pelphrey added, "but there was a couple of things we didn't do well that we need to. But I think those things are very correctable. That will be our challenge."

The challenge could be made tougher if Arkansas center Delvon Johnson is limited or can't play because of a hip-pointer suffered against Alabama.

"I would say that a normal human being with that injury would not play," Pelphrey said. "But Delvon, with his toughness, with the way he handles injuries and those type of things, I think he mirrors our team from that standpoint. With his toughness I think he will be out there."


Hawgs Daily Top Stories