Pressed Into Action

FAYETTEVILLE — Pressing opponents excites Rotnei Clarke. In fact, Arkansas coach John Pelphrey's up-tempo philosophy provided one of the many reasons why the freshman guard joined the Razorbacks.

But putting Pelphrey's full-court pressure into action hasn't been easy for Clarke, nor has it been simple for his teammates.

The Hogs don't just press man-to-man. Arkansas' coaches have installed many press looks using zones and traps, and the collective execution hadn't impressed Pelphrey before Wednesday's 89-80 win over Austin Peay.

"I've struggled with it," Clarke said. "It's tough. You have to be in a lot of different spots. But I'm getting better with it and adapting. It was very hard to understand at first."

Clarke and several of his teammates said they hoped Wednesday's victory would boost confidence going forward regarding their full-court defense. Arkansas welcomes Stephen F. Austin to Bud Walton Arena tonight for the final game of the Jim Thorpe Classic, poised to once again force mistakes in the backcourt.

Pelphrey said his team's press performance was vastly improved against the Governors, especially because of the constant hustle of Brandon Moore. The 6-foot-9 freshman forward was forced into playing a career-high 25 minutes because freshman forward Michael Sanchez picked up two quick fouls.

"I thought Brandon Moore was the biggest reason it was successful," Pelphrey said. "He got in there and was very active. He deflected four or five balls in the first half alone. He had a big save back inbounds to Courtney (Fortson) on one play."

That steal, one of three by Moore, resulted in a Fortson 3-pointer that gave Arkansas a 31-29 lead. Still, for as many quality plays their press produced, the Razorbacks seemingly had an equal number of possessions where they looked lost. The confusion took place, for the most part, after Arkansas scored.

Players ran to the wrong spot on the floor. They trapped when they weren't supposed to. Basically, they showed that the future Pelphrey aspires for, the "day in time when we press every possession," isn't close to arriving.

Arkansas' lack of depth and foul trouble issues add to Pelphrey's concerns about continual pressing.

"I think this team right now is still better at pressing when we have a chance to get set up," Pelphrey said. "We're still not very good sprinting to spots after the ball goes through the basket. That's something these guys have to get over. We have to able to press after made shots, too, because it can be a weapon for us to wear down a team."

Full-court pressure also dictates pace, which would come in handy tonight against a hard-nosed, slow-down team such as Stephen F. Austin that thrives defensively.

Clarke said he couldn't wait until the Razorbacks became completely familiar with all of their different presses. Then, he said, the Hogs could ensure their games are contested at high speeds.

"I really like it, and I think I'm speaking for a lot of the guys on the team," Clarke said. "It gets us shots in transition and gets us running up and down the court."

Today's Ticket

Stephen F. Austin at Arkansas

When: 7:05 p.m.

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

TV: KFTA (Cox Ch. 8)

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

Records: Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, 6-2; Arkansas Razorbacks, 7-1

Coaches: Stephen F. Austin, Danny Kaspar (ninth season); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (second season)

Series: Arkansas leads 2-0 (The Razorbacks won 70-59 last season in Fayetteville)

Probable Starters

Stephen F. Austin (7-2)

Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG

G Girod Adams 5-10 Jr. 6.1

G Eddie Williams 6-2 So. 9.4

F Josh Alexander 6-4 Sr. 17.8

F Nick Shaw 6-6 Sr. 5.3

F Matt Kingsley 6-9 Sr. 16.1

Arkansas (7-1)

Pos. Player Ht. Class PPG

G Courtney Fortson 5-11 Fr. 16.0

G Rotnei Clarke 6-0 Fr. 14.3

G Marcus Britt 6-3 So. 4.1

F Michael Sanchez 6-8 Fr. 8.1

F Michael Washington 6-9 Jr. 16.0

Jim Thorpe Classic

At Bud Walton Arena

Wednesday's Result

Arkansas 89, Austin Peay 80

Friday's Result

Stephen F. Austin 93, Austin Peay 54

Tonight's Game

Stephen F. Austin at Arkansas, 7:05 p.m. Rotnei Clarke

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