Welsh Understands New Role

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Stefan Welsh was in an unusual place when the Razorbacks' tipped off against Austin Peay on Wednesday night.

He was sitting on the bench.

Welsh didn't start for the first time this season, watching Marcus Britt play in his place during the Razorbacks' 89-80 win. But Welsh did play 20 minutes and had some big contributions. He scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.

"I know why I didn't start last night," Welsh said. "Coach (John Pelphrey) had expectations of me. If I didn't meet those expectations then he has to take action. I respect the decision he made. My focus is on this basketball team and winning basketball games. I can't worry about that."

Welsh declined to say if those expectations involved on or off the court matters. When asked about the lineup for Saturday's game against Stephen F. Austin, Pelphrey said he plans to start Britt once again in Welsh's place.

But Pelphrey said Welsh was a valuable component in Arkansas' success against Austin Peay.

In addition to the scoring, Pelphrey noted that it was Welsh who set the screen for guard Rotnei Clarke's 3-pointer which gave the Razorbacks an 80-73 lead late.

"Forget starting, not starting," Pelphrey said. "I thought Stef had a big impact on the game."

Friday Night Lights

The second game of the Jim Thorpe Classic will take place in Bud Walton Arena tonight at 7:05.

Austin Peay (5-4), which lost to Arkansas on Wednesday, will play Stephen F. Austin (6-2). It's the first meeting between the schools and Pelphrey expects a good game.

"If you like basketball and you like Bud Walton Arena, I think you'd be in for a treat," Pelphrey said. "They're two very well-coached teams, two teams that won championships last year, two teams that will be in the mix for championships again in their league this year. Don't be surprised if both get into the NCAA Tournament."

Admission to the game is free.

Free Throw Improvement

Arkansas' free-throw shooting has gone from awful to impressive the past two games.

The Razorbacks knocked down 43 of 52 (82.6 percent) attempts in wins against North Carolina Central and Austin Peay. It's a vast improvement from the first six games in which the Razorbacks were 113 of 184 (61.4 percent).

"We've been seeing it in the newspaper, seeing it on the news that we've been struggling on the free throw line," Welsh said. "We know that we don't rank high in our conference at the line. So we put a big emphasis on it.

"Coach has done an excellent job of putting us in game situations in practice where we have to knock down critical free throws and I think it has paid dividends."

Arkansas has raised its free-throw percentage to 66.1 because of its performance the past two games.

Sneak Peek

Don't be surprised to see most of the Razorbacks taking in the Austin Peay-Stephen F. Austin game tonight.

Pelphrey said he won't be taking "roll call" at the game tonight, but believes plenty of players will be on hand to watch the game. One reason: It gives them the unique ability to watch its next opponent on the court.

"We get to watch film and we get to watch them in person," Clarke said. "Not too many times does that happen. I think that's a big advantage for us."

Pelphrey believes there's another reason most of his players will attend the game.

"They like ball," he said.

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