Stats don't lie for Sanchez

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey has plenty of love for Michael Sanchez after Hogs defeat Cal-Davis.

Numbers don't always tell the story. Stats can lie or become a loser's solace.

They sure looked pretty beside Michael Sanchez' name Thursday night in Arkansas' 68-59 victory over California-Davis. Try 12 points, 12 rebounds, against just two fouls and zero turnovers in 30 well-played minutes.

To his credit, Arkansas coach John Pelphrey did not quote the box score to praise Sanchez, the 6-8, 236-pound banger from Springdale. He pointed to the redshirt freshman's "passion, heart and toughness" as a big key in the victory.

"Michael gave us a huge lift in the first half," Pelphrey said. "He played with reckless abandon without fouling. He impacted the game tonight.

"I think sometimes we forget that was just his second college game because it seems like he's been here forever. He's still learning, but he was tough and physical tonight. I love him.

"He played with control, but was hard-nosed. He didn't barrel over anyone. He really competed. He went up knowing he was going to be fouled."

Sanchez didn't think his performance was anything out of the ordinary. He was just playing his blue-collar role for an Arkansas team that is desperate for his inside presence.

"Coach has been working with me to just let the game come to me," Sanchez said. "I tried to be patient and do that tonight.

"Mainly, I just have to be patient. Coach has worked to get me to slow down. I think that's what happened."

Teammates were appreciative of some things that didn't show up in the box score.

"He did some things that really helped us tonight, some hustle plays," Stefan Welsh said. "He had a big game, real big. If he can do that every night, that would be huge for us. We know he's very capable of doing that."

Sanchez had a couple of dunks after nice feeds from Welsh on pick-and-roll plays.

"There are some options there, but they were slipping the screen and that left me alone," Sanchez said. "We got some easy looks in the first half. We'd worked hard on that stuff."

Pelphrey said there is more work to do on the pick-and-roll plays.

"Michael isn't where he's going to be down the line," Pelphrey said. "We've got a long way to go. He's got to get out and reverse it, do some other things. We still don't understand it all. We didn't get much for Mike Washington inside, some easy stuff. But we'll get there."

On this night, Pelphrey was just amazed at the patient play of his team on both ends against a team that can exploit the aggressive style he wants. The Hogs won by pounding the lane with drives with their opposition misfiring from beyond the 3-point line.

There were hints from the coach that the Cal-Davis front line was vulnerable to that kind of performance from Sanchez.

"What they have are bigs that are perimeter players," Pelphrey said. "We outrebounded them (by 15), but it might have should have been 20. Their bigs really stay out at the (3-point) line. Rebounding and scoring around the basket is not the strength of (the Cal-Davis) bigs."

Sanchez and Washington guarded them at the line so well and were so avoided fouls that the Hogs didn't go to the rest of their young forwards. Brandon Moore played just two minutes. Andre Clark didn't play.

"We are going to need them as we go against some bigger, more physical teams," Pelphrey said. "We have to get them ready."

It wasn't a night for Rotnei Clarke to score, either. The freshman shooting guard was the only starter not to crack double figures (with 9 points) and missed all three of his 3-point shots. He was still a factor, though.

"What you saw was that with the way they guarded Rotnei, it opened up some driving lanes for the other guards," Pelphrey said. "They eliminated his threes, but it provided some other things. We do need to get better with the counter punch to that."

The best Arkansas counter-puncher Thursday night was Michael Sanchez.

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