Razorbacks Streak Into Break For Final Exams

FAYETTEVILLE -- He knew his Razorbacks were conditioned. He knew they could handle a four-game, 10-day stretch after returning from the Caribbean, a stretch Arkansas completed with a Monday night victory over Missouri State. But now that the brutal spell is through, and Arkansas has conquered it with four straight victories, first-year coach John Pelphrey feels relieved.

Relieved to give the Hogs two consecutive days off. Relieved to let them study for their final exams, which start Thursday. And relieved to then get them ready for the duration of the season. "First thing we have to do is take care of our bodies," Pelphrey said. "... We have a semester's worth of work academically that we have to focus on right now. We have to get extra tutoring, stay up a little later, do whatever we have to do right now to make sure we finish as strong as we possibly can in the classroom. "That's got to happen. We need all these guys. So the race is not over with academically. We have to get out there and compete in that arena, as well." Those last sentiments revealed a concern from Pelphrey about the eligibility status of several of his players. Three of them -- Patrick Beverley, Michael Washington and Sonny Weems -- have been disciplined this season for violating team rules related to academics. Senior point guard Gary Ervin said he and his teammates realize the importance of their school work and will take advantage of extra study time. "We've got to look at (having time off) in a positive way," Ervin said. "It gives us time to do some of the things that we have to do in the classroom and prepare for finals. And at the same time, it gives us time on the basketball court to get better at running our offense and doing some of the things we do. "A lot of guys don't like the break, but at the same time, a lot of practice time makes you a better team at the end of the year." Pelphrey can't wait to see his Razorbacks progress more. Before Monday's game, Pelphrey expressed his dissatisfaction for the rate of Arkansas' improvement in its first seven games. But after the Hogs forced a season-high 23 turnovers out of the Bears, Pelphrey called the effort the "best of the season." The Razorbacks are starting to take care of the ball better. They're showing more balance -- in Arkansas' recent five-game winning streak, a different Razorback has led the team in scoring in each contest. And they're exhibiting more consistency with their defensive pressure. With seven more days until Arkansas' next game -- against Texas-San Antonio -- Pelphrey said it's time to expand on that progress. "There are also some things we do need to work on offensively and defensively," Pelphrey said. "We'll maybe put some stuff in on both sides of the ball. The time will help us to put more wrinkles in."

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