Performing the Ordinary

UA head coach John Pelphrey has seen enough of mental mistakes and wants them stopped heading into Saturday's 2:05 p.m. home game with Louisiana-Monroe.

He can put up with poor shooting. He can handle physical mistakes. He can even tolerate turnovers, at least the ones that occur because of aggression.

But Arkansas coach John Pelphrey cannot stomach mental miscues. And that's what has burned Pelphrey about the Razorbacks' three defeats this season. In each loss, consistency in the areas that enrage Pelphrey hasn't been present.

"We need to get better at the ordinary things," Pelphrey said. "Running the fast break every time. Running our lanes. Getting rebounds and chinning the ball. Guarding a guy for three dribbles. Taking care of the ball. Having honor and respect for who is in our locker room and everyone in the other locker room.

"At this level, we should be able to do all those things."

That Arkansas hasn't throughout its 9-3 campaign has frustrated Pelphrey. But he sounded Thursday like a coach who wasn't deterred, who wasn't totally discouraged by the absence of certain characteristics he has always demanded of his players.

He realizes the change of culture the Hogs have undergone, and are still very much undergoing. He just wants the Razorbacks to fully embrace the pride he wants them to feel for fundamentals.

And right now, as a collective unit, they don't.

"We need to find value in it," Pelphrey said. "Based on our talent level, if we do those things, we should have a great, great chance to win."

Part of what Pelphrey speaks of is effort. Arkansas' first-year coach asks for constant energy from his players. He wants them diving for loose balls. He wants them attacking the offensive glass. He wants them taking charges. Plus, he wants that effort to take place "on the six-inch playing field between our ears."

And Arkansas senior forward Darian Townes is the first to admit that the Razorbacks don't always please their coach.

"It's not that we don't want to hustle hard and be on the floor and outwork other teams," Townes said. "We all want to. And we do a lot of the time. But it has to be an attitude all the time. And all of us just aren't there yet."

Many of the aspects aren't quantitative. Many don't show up on the stat sheet. Some do, though. Mainly, turnovers and free throw shooting have hampered the Razorbacks in their three defeats.

In a 67-51 loss to Providence at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, the Hogs turned the ball over an unimaginable 32 times. In their 83-72 defeat at Oklahoma, they converted just nine of their 17 free throws. And in their 74-67 setback to Appalachian State in North Little Rock, they missed 11 of their 25 free throws.

As for the turnovers, Pelphrey said the Razorbacks simply needed to "value" the basketball more. As for the free throws, he said practice time required a more serious approach.

"We work on free throws," Pelphrey said. "Whether it's one or five, for anything you miss, you get a negative. There's a chart we work up. It encompasses more than free throws and it includes some positives.

"They have to make 10 in a row before they can leave."

So while Arkansas' problems can seem complicated at times, Pelphrey stressed the answers are simple. Improvements in three realms — more effort, more concentration and more mental strength — is all he seeks.

"Toughness is being able to do the ordinary things over and over and over, and not find boredom in that," Pelphrey said. "That's what makes you special."



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

WHERE: Bud Walton Arena

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: Louisiana-Monroe, Orlando Early (6-6, 3rd season; 36-36, 3 seasons), Arkansas, John Pelphrey (9-3, 1st season; 89-70 overall, 6 seasons)

SERIES: Arkansas leads 7-1 (5-0 in Fayetteville)


Two of the areas Arkansas has struggled in this season are free throw shooting and turnovers. Out of 328 Division I basketball teams, the Razorbacks rank 165th in free-throw percentage (67.9) and 281st in turnovers per game (17.7).


Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said that he hadn't spoken with Eddie Sutton, San Francisco's newly named interim coach, but that he wasn't surprised to see his mentor back in the game.

Sutton recruited Pelphrey to Kentucky and gave him his first coaching job at Oklahoma State. Pelphrey said he'd like to see Sutton get his 800th career victory. Sutton now has 798 wins.

"I just think he's gassed up and ready to go," Pelphrey said. "He's got the itch to do it. I think Coach is feeling good. He's had a chance to do some different things these last couple years, and now he'd like to get out there and coach again. He loves it."

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