Razorbacks Excited For Trip To NLR

FAYETTEVILLE — Their annual trip down to North Little Rock already provides ample incentive for the Arkansas Razorbacks to perform their best Saturday against Appalachian State.

But first-year coach gave them an even more important reason to come out ready against the Mountaineers.

Here was John Pelphrey's message Thursday morning: No win, no Merry Christmas.

"Did I say that?" Pelphrey said with a smile during his Thursday news conference. "Yeah, I did mention that to those guys."

Arkansas senior point guard Gary Ervin insisted he would have a Merry Christmas.

"Oh, no doubt," Ervin said. "I wouldn't even want to know what he meant by that."

Regardless of Pelphrey's threat, the Hogs already felt motivated for Saturday's game, primarily because of the sour taste they have from their trek to the state capital last season.

Texas Tech dominated Arkansas 71-56 on Dec. 16, 2006 in Alltel Arena. The Hogs shot only 40.8 percent from the field. They missed 18 of their 21 shots from 3-point range. They committed 18 turnovers.

And, most importantly to them, they disappointed the 13,283 fans who showed up.

"We went down there last and had a big letdown. That was disappointing," sophomore guard Stefan Welsh said. "We don't want the same thing to happen. We want to go down there and put on a show for them — play our brand of basketball, press for 40 minutes."

Pelphrey wants to leave Alltel Arena with a better result than the last time he coached there.

His South Alabama team was "trucked," as Pelphrey said, by Arkansas-Little Rock during his second season in Mobile, Ala. Pelphrey said he also realized the importance of the North Little Rock game.

He heard numerous stories throughout the years from one of his mentors, Eddie Sutton.

"I'm really, really excited about this," Pelphrey said. "For me, having grown up with coach Sutton a little bit, I've heard how he kind of took the Razorbacks to the people — to Pine Bluff and Little Rock, and heard about the memories that were made for the Razorbacks and for those communities."

Another Trip To Alltel?

This could be the first of two trips to Alltel Arena for the Razorbacks. The arena is one of the first-round sites for the NCAA Tournament, and Arkansas could warrant a return trip to Little Rock.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee usually tries to keep teams close to home if possible, and putting the Razorbacks at Alltel Arena would make sense if they earn a high seed. It also would make a lot of financial sense for the NCAA.

Pelphrey said that he knew the potential was there for another appearance in Little Rock but that none of that was on his mind this week.

"I'm just worried about how big Saturday is," Pelphrey said. "Certainly we want to be a part of postseason play. But we have to focus on Appalachian State."

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