All About The Extra Pass

FAYETTEVILLE — Teamwork personified. Those two words haven't been used often this season to describe the Arkansas basketball team, but Wednesday night was a rare exception. First-year coach John Pelphrey watched the Razorbacks tie a season-high with 24 assists in a 31-point home win over Northwestern (La.) State.

It was only the second time this season that Arkansas dished out more than 18 assists. And Pelphrey hopes the Razorbacks (9-2) can carry that production into their contest this afternoon against Appalachian State (4-5) in North Little Rock.

"More than anything, it's an attitude, it's a mentality," Pelphrey said. "It's an individual decision to try to do what the coaching staff is trying to tell you. It's an individual decision to try to make somebody better, but it's a team thing.

"It rubs off. It's infectious."

Pelphrey isn't the only one who aspires for the Razorbacks to catch that selfless bug permanently. Several Razorbacks described Wednesday night's contest as their most enjoyable game this season, and they used their assist total to explain why.

All night long, the Hogs refused to settle for shots — even open looks. They always kept an eye out for an open teammate. They always peered for a more high-percentage opportunity. And they were rewarded.

Arkansas converted on open dunks, unguarded 3-pointers and breakaway layups because of their commitment to sharing.

"It's just something that the coaches have emphasized over and over, and honestly, it's taken us some time to catch on," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said. "But it's what great teams do, and we're seeing that. Great teams make extra passes, great teams make skip passes. And it's exciting when you're sharing the ball like that."

Sophomore guard Patrick Beverley provided a perfect example. Arkansas' leading scorer could have fired up a 3-pointer midway through Wednesday night's first half. He was on the receiving end of skip pass and thought briefly about hoisting up the shot.

But a Northwestern State defender ran out to challenge him. Beverley still could have gotten the attempt off, but he instead snapped a pass to his left, to the top of the key, to a wide-open Stefan Welsh.

Welsh swished the 3-point shot.

"That's what teamwork is all about," Welsh said. "If you have an open look, your teammate may have a better one."

Pelphrey reacted to that play by rapidly clapping his hands and yelling, "Great pass!"

Earlier this week, Pelphrey said the Razorbacks needed to keep two things in mind if they want to continue to succeed with such unselfishness. First, they must maintain the attitude they showed Wednesday night. And second, they must stay properly spaced on the court.

"We can't be on top of each other," Pelphrey said. "We have to make sure we're getting to the right spots.

"Again, it's a team thing."



TODAY'S TICKET

APPALACHIAN STATE AT ARKANSAS

WHEN: 2:05 p.m. TV: ARSN (Cox Ch. 8)

WHERE: Alltel Arena, North Little Rock

RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3

COACHES: Appalachian State, Houston Fancher (4-5, 8th season); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (9-2, 1st season)

SERIES: First meeting



PROJECTED STARTERS

APPALACHIAN STATE (4-5)

G Michael McConathy 5-9 So. 4.1

F Colby Bargeman 6-5 Sr. 9.5

F Gerrell Thomas 6-6 Sr. 9.2

F Trey Gilder 6-9 Sr. 16.5

C Jerry Moody 6-8 Sr. 4.0

ARKANSAS (9-2)

G Stefan Welsh 6-2 So. 5.9

G Patrick Beverley 6-1 So. 12.6

F Sonny Weems 6-6 Sr. 10.7

F Charles Thomas 6-8 Jr. 8.8

C Steven Hill 7-0 Sr. 4.1

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