Arkansas at Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — John Pelphrey didn't need to be reminded of the sharp words he had for his frontcourt after Arkansas' 63-58 loss at Kentucky last Saturday.

The Razorbacks coach has a clear recollection of the tongue-lashing. How he mentioned he's still waiting for "this great frontcourt" to emerge with four games left. And how he has heard all this talk about the pros, but "pros get offensive rebounds," something the Razorbacks failed to do last week.

So when Pelphrey was asked how he thought his players would respond to the harsh words Monday, he didn't have much else to add. But it became abundantly clear he meant all of it.

"How do I want them to respond?" Pelphrey said. "I want them to play up to their potential and beyond. I have total belief that they will. If they don't, then they won't play."

Pelphrey is hoping his stern message — no matter how blunt it may have been — gets through to the maligned group when the Razorbacks (18-8, 7-5 in Southeastern Conference) play at Alabama (14-13, 3-9) in Coleman Coliseum tonight at 7.

Arkansas, which boasts seniors like Steven Hill, Darian Townes and Charles Thomas, was outrebounded 38-23 at Kentucky. The Hogs grabbed only three offensive rebounds, too, letting the Wildcats' relatively thin frontcourt dominate their deep group.

The struggles were so obvious the Razorbacks didn't need Pelphrey to bring it to their attention. But Hill said the challenge issued by their coach will serve as motivation.

"We got killed on the boards," Hill said. "So we really need to pick it up in that department. ... I'm sure he's just trying to send a message. Probably just telling the truth, honestly. So, you know, big men as a whole just have to pick it up."

The frontcourt's absence was a big reason the Razorbacks scored 58 points, their second-lowest total of the season.

Hill said Arkansas makes a living crashing the offensive glass. In addition, grabbing defensive boards helps trigger the Razorbacks transition game. None of that happened Saturday.

"That's inexcusable and unacceptable," Thomas said. "So right now we have to live up to (Pelphrey's) challenge."

Improved play will be a necessity in a pivotal game against Alabama, which is led by one of the SEC's top post players.

Forward Richard Hendrix is third in the SEC in scoring (18.5 points) and first in rebounding (10.1). He is the only conference player averaging a double-double, giving opponents fits because of his size, strength and athleticism.

"He's probably the best frontcourt player in our league in terms of size, strength, performance, basketball IQ," Pelphrey said. "I think he's got it all."

Collectively, the Razorbacks did a solid job with Hendrix in the 71-67 overtime win in January. The forward scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, but didn't dominate the game. In addition, Townes (18 points) and Thomas (13 points, 10 rebounds) had big outings for the Razorbacks.

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried remembered it. He said the Razorbacks, despite their struggles at Kentucky, are as good as anybody in the SEC up front. Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley went one step further, saying his big men are the best.

Townes said the Razorbacks intend to prove just that tonight after being called out by Pelphrey after the Kentucky loss.

"We've got to do a lot of damage when we play Alabama," Townes said. "They've got a real good post player as well. I'm pretty sure we're going to take all our anger out on them."

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