Red-White Game On Tap

FAYETTEVILLE -- Tonight is just a tease, just a glimpse.

When the Arkansas basketball team splits into two tonight in Bud Walton Arena, little will be learned. The Red-White Game is for more for show, more for entertainment, more for giving fans a first look at the Razorbacks.

But don't think that means tonight's 7:05 game is meaningless. Both Razorback squads will push the ball. Both will run pick-and-roll plays. Both will press. Both will begin the transition of looking more like Razorbacks teams of old.

"I think we'll start to learn a lot more about our team," Arkansas forward Charles Thomas said. "Are we really ready to do what Coach (John) Pelphrey want us to? I just don't know yet. We'll find out a little more (tonight)."

Thomas is one of six seniors trying to adapt to the style of play being implemented by Pelphrey, Arkansas' first-year coach. And even Thomas isn't sure if the Razorbacks are truly prepared for the full-court fury Pelphrey wants to see from his Hogs.

Pelphrey is encouraged. The Razorbacks are in the best shape of their lives. Some workouts conducted by Arkansas' basketball coaches and strength coaches have resembled track practices.

The payoff begins tonight.

"We've done all this running just for this, for the games," Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley, one of three players who will not play tonight, said. "Hopefully, we'll start to see that we're in much better game shape than we used to be."

Expect both teams to play at a hectic pace. To Pelphrey, tonight is an informal test of sorts. And the Razorbacks can pass if they compete just as hard at the beginning of the contest as they do at the end.

"Obviously, we all have goals for the season," Pelphrey said. "But before we get there, there's a lot of things that have to take place. We need to learn what it takes to play hard on a possession-by-possession basis."

Arkansas will be without the services of sophomore forward Michael Washington, senior guard Gary Ervin and Beverley.

"Michael Washington will not play (tonight), it's a continuation of punishment for violating team rules," Pelphrey said. "Also Patrick Beverley and Gary Ervin will not be participating. It has to do with, more to, my decision. I feel like those two young men, good kids, working hard and everything, but I need more of an overachieving from them in other areas.

"Those guys like the responsibility and stuff that comes with being a very good player. By the same token, away from the court, in the classroom, some of those other things, I'm not getting that same overachieving mentality that I want to get. I just feel like there's something there that needs to be corrected.

"If we can get that done by missing this game, it's going to help us down the road. We're going to get that corrected whether it means missing a red-white game, or whether it means missing Georgia, or whoever at some point down the road."

Pelprhey said it would be a one-game deal. MORNING NEWS SPORTS WRITER JERRY L. REED CONTRIBUTED TO THIS STORY.

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