Texas still big for Hogs

It was the first time for Texas to play in Bud Walton Arena. With Eddie Sutton in the house, the Razorbacks added to their storied rivalry with a thrilling victory Tuesday night.

Deep in his time at the microphone in the post-game interview room, John Pelphrey tried to remind everyone that Arkansas' 67-61 victory over Texas "does not count three."

Nice try, coach.

After wearing a bright red sports coat for the first time in his Arkansas coaching career, it was obvious Pelphrey understood the magnitude of the night and the victory. He brought in Eddie Sutton to visit with the Razorbacks at their shoot around earlier in the day to give them a history lesson.

"He came by our game day practice," Pelphrey said of his old Kentucky coach. "I introduced him to our team. I think they all knew his name, but I wanted them to put a face to a Hall of Fame name. He spent a couple of minutes with our team."

Mike Nail, the veteran radio play-by-play voice of the basketball Hogs, witnessed that Sutton talk.

"Coach Sutton did a great job of telling them what playing Texas in this arena and in front of this crowd would be like," Nail said. "He set the scene perfectly."

Sutton told the Hogs it would be the loudest the building had been for them. He didn't say that the crowd would be so loud that it knocked Nail's broadcast off the air in the early minutes of the first half.

Pelphrey said he doesn't often notice the loudness of fans.

"As a coach, you don't always notice that," Pelphrey said. "But that was pretty hard to miss."

If the crowd didn't impress the Hogs, then Pelphrey's bright red jacket did.

"I wanted everyone to know what side I was on," Pelphrey deadpanned. "I was choosing sides."

"Nice," Courtney Fortson described his coach's jacket. "That was a throw back to Southwest Conference days. He pulled that out of the woodworks."

Stefan Welsh liked it so much he had to touch the material.

"I went up to him and popped the collar," Welsh said. "It was very nice."

Pelphrey said, "Yeah, he wanted to see what it was like – it's a new addition to the wardrobe."

Texas coach Rick Barnes didn't say anything about Pelphrey's jacket, but did think the Hogs would make a nice addition to the Big 12 Conference.

"This school should be in the Big 12," Barnes said. "They would make our league better. They would make the northern half of our league better. That would change a few things to help us."

Barnes and Pelphrey both said they understood the rivalry. Barnes spoke of the role both Sutton and Nolan Richardson played in building the Arkansas program, but dipped into football history, too.

"I grew up in North Carolina, but I knew about Frank Broyles, Darrell Royal and Keith Jackson doing their games," Barnes said. "It was fun coming in here. Our players enjoyed playing them in this atmosphere. We are normally a good road team."

As for the fans, Barnes said, "They were classy and great to me. You have to love their enthusiasm. They were great to me when I went out (after the game) to my radio show."

And, what did Barnes think of the Razorbacks -- are they are a top 10 team after going 2-0 against the top two teams in the Big 12 South?

"In three months, we'll find out," he said. "I like the way they play, but the test is when they go on the road. I haven't looked at their schedule to see (if they've been on the road). They will be a tough out here (in Bud Walton). The question, can they take it on the road."

The Hogs begin SEC play Saturday at home against Mississippi State. Pelphrey said he didn't expect his team to be 12-1 ahead of that game.

"They have worked hard to achieve this," he said. "They've actually practiced this well when they weren't playing this well."

He called last year's team "more talented," but said his second UA team is "tougher." But, not surprisingly, he said the tough part of the schedule is ahead.

"We are not going to play the next 16 in here," Pelphrey said. "We've got eight of them on the road. Our character will be tested. The question will be can we handle success."

Will they keep their focus amidst the celebration that always comes with victories over Texas?

There was a lot of back slapping Tuesday night. New athletic director Jeff Long, soaking up his first victory over the Longhorns in his 13 months at the helm, headed to the tunnel where the players would exit the floor to be among the first to congratulate the Hogs and Pelphrey.

There was speculation that Long should be carrying a new contract for his basketball coach to the tunnel. That is the sort of talk that beating Texas produces. Perhaps Eddie Sutton warned Pelphrey of that earlier in the day.

John Pelphrey had a new red sports coat for Tuesday night.

Eddie Sutton was present for the game. The former coach was introduced during a break in the second half and was mentioned by both head coaches afterwards.

Photos by Marc F. Henning

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