Razorbacks Want Win For Alltel Crowd

Arkansas has played nine basketball games in Alltel Arena in North Little Rock since the building opened nine years ago. Yet nobody on this Razorback roster has won a game there.

Granted, only juniors Michael Washington and Stefan Welsh have competed for the Hogs in North Little Rock. The majority of John Pelphrey's players will experience their first collegiate contest in central Arkansas when they collide with North Texas on Saturday afternoon.

But Pelphrey, Washington and Welsh, like more Razorbacks teams than not, have sour memories of Alltel Arena. Pelphrey called his team's 74-67 loss to Appalachian State — UA's fifth loss in the past seven seasons at Alltel — one of last season's low points.

"For me, that's one thing that stood out a year ago as a disappointment, that we didn't deliver in Little Rock," Pelphrey said. "It was a great, great crowd, extremely passionate. ... As Razorbacks, we don't like hearing 2-5 with anything, unless that's what somebody is against us. We're not going to change (that record) overnight.

"But we have a chance to make it better."

Pelphrey talked Thursday about the importance he put on playing well in central Arkansas. He said he understood the tradition "Coach (Eddie) Sutton had of taking the team to the people," and the Razorbacks sounded just as eager to win in North Little Rock.

Washington and Welsh were a part of the Razorbacks' last two defeats in North Little Rock. Arkansas' last victory there came by 19 points over Rice on Dec. 17, 2005. Welsh recalled the first loss against Texas Tech (71-56), remembering that Red Raiders coach Bobby Knight "was on pace to break the (all-time) record for wins."

His brief comment on the second, on the seven-point loss to the Mountaineers: "We just didn't play well." Welsh said the Razorbacks felt dismayed after losing in North Little Rock the past two seasons.

"They have some of the most passionate and loyal fans throughout the state, so we want to go down there and play hard and aggressive and hopefully come out with a W," said Welsh, who has scored only five points in two North Little Rock games.

Though the Hogs' two previous teams have faltered at Alltel, Welsh said he believed this season's trip would end differently.

"Our focus is on the right things, as far as staying dedicated and playing 100 percent anytime you're on the floor," Welsh said. "With this group, I don't think we'll get caught up in not winning there."

For Pelphrey, the trek south on I-540 and west on I-40 provides just another valuable learning tool for his maturing team.

"I think it's good for us," Pelphrey said. "We haven't traveled a lot. We're going to do that more now. So to be able to have our game day stuff in a hotel (like on the road), there are some positive things about it."

Saturday's Ticket

North Texas vs. Arkansas

When: 2:05 p.m.

Where: Alltel Arena, North Little Rock.

TV: KFTA (Cox channel 8).

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

Records: North Texas Mean Green, 8-5; Arkansas Razorbacks, 10-1.

Coaches: North Texas, Johnny Jones (eighth season); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (second season)

Series: Arkansas leads 12-0.

Razorbacks In North Little Rock

Arkansas has lost five of its last seven games at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock.

Season Opponent Outcome

2008 Appalachian State L, 74-67

2007 Texas Tech L, 71-56

2006 Rice W, 80-61

2005 Illinois L, 72-60

2004 Jacksonville W, 85-65

2003 Illinois L, 72-68

2002 Oklahoma State L, 85-76

2001 NO GAME

2000 Texas-Pan American W, 70-56

2000 Centenary W, 73-55

New Year's Eve Practice

Just like last season, the Razorbacks brought in the new year Wednesday night by practicing in Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said that he practiced on New Year's Eve as a player at Kentucky and that he liked keeping his players preoccupied the night of Dec. 31.

Arkansas worked out from 11 p.m. to about 1 a.m.

"It's not my favorite holiday," Pelphrey said. "It's just dangerous out there. I'm not so much concerned about what (our players) might do. Just everybody else."

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