Arkansas Hits Road For First Time

John Pelphrey didn't feel like speculating. He's actually just as curious as any other person interested in Arkansas basketball about how his Razorbacks will react tonight at Missouri State.

After the Hogs took care of California-Davis on Thursday night, Arkansas' coach decided to not predict the way his seven newcomers would handle their first hostile environment.

"I think we've shown some toughness so far, some (resolve)," Pelphrey said. "But I've been around long enough to know the challenges are going to get greater."

For seven newcomers, who have helped Arkansas start 2-0 this season, tonight's challenge is unprecedented. Making matters more daunting, their first trip away from Fayetteville isn't for any ordinary road game, either.

The 11,000-seat JQH Arena opens for basketball action tonight. The Eagles performed in concert to break in the new, $67 million facility last Tuesday night, but the Bears and Razorbacks will become the first teams to compete in JQH Arena.

Missouri State officials said late Friday that only a few tickets remained, so the Hogs figure to encounter a raucous crowd for their first road test of 2008-09. Junior guard Stefan Welsh said the Razorbacks realize what kind of craziness awaits them.

"We understand what's at stake," Welsh said. "We understand that we're going to be a big draw. We understand there's a new coach and a new arena. We're aware of all of that."

Tonight could provide an indication of whether new faces in the program will bring new results away from Bud Walton Arena. In recent years, Arkansas teams have struggled to show up on the road with consistent intensity.

Stan Heath's teams won only 9 of 46 road games in five years. Arkansas went 2-7 last season in opposing arenas, and Pelphrey even made his team practice at 1 a.m. after returning from its loss at Georgia.

Arkansas freshman point guard Courtney Fortson seemed optimistic about his team's chances against Missouri State, which will suit up only eight healthy scholarship players.

"I feel confident about this team (on the road)," Fortson said. "We might be young, but I feel like we're more mature than most young teams because we have had to play right away."

Pelphrey said he hoped the frantic atmosphere resulted in Arkansas being more focused.

"As a coach, I'd rather go into an environment where it's frenzied as opposed to going some place where there's not a lot of energy," Pelphrey said.

Today's Ticket

Arkansas at Missouri State

When: 7:05 p.m.

Where: JQH Arena, Springfield, Mo.

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-FM 105.3, KUOA-AM 1290

Records: Arkansas, 2-0; Missouri State, 1-1

Coaches: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (second season); Missouri State, Cuonzo Martin (first season)

Series: Arkansas leads 17-5 (5-4 in Springfield)

Probable Starters

Arkansas (1-1)

Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG

G Courtney Fortson 5-11 Fr. 17.0

G Rotnei Clarke 6-0 Fr. 13.0

G Stefan Welsh 6-3 Jr. 11.5

F Michael Sanchez 6-8 Fr. 8.5

F Michael Washington 6-9 Jr. 20.5

Missouri State (1-1)

G Spencer Laurie 6-1 Sr. 14.5

G Cardell McFarland 6-2 Fr. 14.0

F Chris Cooks 6-4 Sr. 16.0

F Kyle Weems 6-6 Fr. 7.5

C Wade Knapp 6-8 Sr. 4.5

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