Welsh Proving His Worth

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Stefan Welsh followed Texas' leading scorer, guard A.J. Abrams, all over the court Tuesday night.

Welsh — who held Abrams to seven points — was in his face at the 3-point line. He guarded him off the dribble. He was prepared to go further if needed.

"If he would've come out of the game and gone to the bathroom, I think I would've followed him," Welsh joked. "I just wanted to stay on his conscience and let him know I was going to be there all the time."

Welsh's defensive performance also sent a strong message to the Razorbacks: They can count on him.

The guard had up-and-down moments earlier this year, but has proven to be a consistent scorer, strong leader and key to Arkansas' recent success.

Welsh, who scored 20 points against the Longhorns, is averaging 21.3 the past four games. More important, he is starting to live up to Arkansas coach John Pelphrey's expectations as a leader.

"Stef may have the best understanding of what it is system wise we want to get done," Pelphrey said. "No matter what time of the game it is, whether we're up, whether we're down, whether it's going good or bad. He's got a gift. ... But sometimes his delivery stinks. Sometimes he makes faces he doesn't need to make. Sometimes he's immature.

"That stuff is getting less and less and I'm really, really proud of the progress he's made."

The turn came after Welsh scored only three points in Arkansas' win against North Carolina Central in December. Pelphrey responded by pulling the junior out of the starting lineup for the next two games.

Welsh, who has regained his starting spot, has scored in double figures in the six games since. He said his practice habits have improved, he's worked hard to stop forcing shots and has started becoming a better leader since the attention-grabbing move.

"We're starting to get into conference play so I know I have to be here mentally, physically," said Welsh, who is third on the team in scoring (14 points a game). "I have to be the leader. I want to set good examples for all my teammates."

They're taking notice, especially after his performance on both ends of the court Tuesday.

"He practices hard each and every day and that carries over to games," guard Rotnei Clarke said. "He's doing a good job of being a leader.

"He's in it for the team and he's going to do whatever it takes to win. He's had a great stretch."

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