Razorbacks vs. Warhawks

Arkansas (9-3) gets back to action Saturday at 2:05 p.m. when it hosts Louisiana-Monroe (6-6) at Bud Walton Arena.

Six-day breaks aren't too bad usually for the Arkansas basketball team. They're normally welcomed. Hiatuses like the one the Hogs just went through give them a chance to rest. They let the Razorbacks recharge. They allow for mental and physical improvement.

But their most recent intermission from games was especially painful. Arkansas' last game resulted in a 74-67 upset loss to Appalachian State on Dec. 22 in North Little Rock, and that defeat brought out anger. Frankly, it embarrassed Arkansas (9-3).

And because of the Razorbacks' schedule, they could do nothing but stew.

"As much as I tried, I couldn't forget about the loss," Arkansas senior Charles Thomas said. "It really hurt. It hurt a lot. You can't forget something like that until you get a win, or at least until you play the next game.

"So, yeah, we can't wait to play (today)."

The Razorbacks can put their experience in Alltel Arena permanently behind them at 2:05 p.m. today when Louisiana-Monroe visits Bud Walton Arena.

With just two games left until Southeastern Conference begins -- Baylor in Dallas is the other -- the Hogs spoke this week like they realized they must take significant strides immediately.

They want to cut down on turnovers. They want to play intense defense for the entire shot clock. They want to constantly share the ball, and they want to take high-percentage shots.

Despite the break, Arkansas only spent three days practicing in preparing for the Warhawks, taking Sunday, Monday and Tuesday off to spend time with family and friends.

"It was nice to spend a few days relaxing," Razorback senior Darian Townes said. "I rested a lot, did some eating, just hung out, really. But now, we want to get back at it, and we know it's going to be a tough game."

First-year coach John Pelphrey is no stranger to Louisiana-Monroe's players. Pelphrey's teams at South Alabama defeated the Warhawks each of the past three years. Last season, South Alabama handed the Warhawks, co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference's West Division, one of their seven league losses -- 64-57 in Mobile, Ala.

"I'm more familiar with them than any opponent we'll face this season," Pelphrey said.

No argument there.

The Warhawks brought back all five starters and 11 lettermen from their squad that went 18-14 but fell to North Texas in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Louisiana-Monroe's perimeter shooting worries Pelphrey the most. The Warhawks have three players who shoot 3-pointers at a percentage better than 38 percent.

"Perimeter defense and defending the 3-point line will be as important as any game the rest of the year," Pelphrey said. "They shoot the 3 from four spots, which is what makes them unique."

SATURDAY'S TICKET

LOUISIANA-MONROE AT ARKANSAS

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)

PROJECTED STARTERS

LOUISIANA-MONROE (6-6)

G Tony Hooper 5-11 Jr. 16.3

G Lance Brasher 6-2 Sr. 9.3

G Jonas Brown 6-3 Sr. 12.8

G Jordan Payne 6-3 Sr. 15.2

F Afam Nweke 6-7 Jr. 5.5

ARKANSAS (9-3)

G Stefan Welsh 6-2 So. 5.6

G Patrick Beverley 6-1 So. 12.0

F Sonny Weems 6-6 Sr. 10.7

F Charles Thomas 6-8 Jr. 9.3

C Steven Hill 7-0 Sr. 4.1


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