State of the Hogs: Rotnei Clarke

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This is when John Pelphrey earns his money. Perhaps he'll even earn more money.

It's when he proves his mettle as an SEC basketball coach. So far, he's earned every penny of his Arkansas contract. I suspect he'll do fine.

What I can tell you is that his teams continue to look coached. And, that's the highest compliment I can pay a coach.

With a team full of freshmen playing key roles, it's going to get tougher before it gets easier. There are no surprises the rest of this season. He knows it.

That's what he told us after the Oklahoma and Texas victories, but we probably didn't listen well.

Pelphrey was sure that everyone on the rest of the schedule would have a great scouting book on the Hogs. He also knew that the real tests come in conference play when adjustments must be figured out game by game, possession by possession.

"Everyone knows you, does such a great job against what you can do well," Pelphrey said Thursday after his media conference. "I said after the Oklahoma game that we were about to face our greatest challenges. That's what I was talking about. You get to league play, they know you really well.

"Teams are going to see if you can adjust, then adjust again. Just playing on the road is an adjustment. That's where we are right now."

Pelphrey isn't surprised by anything he's seen so far and that's not taking into consideration wins and losses.

"Maybe some of the consistency we saw in some of our nonconference games surprised me a little," he said. "We did have some times when we played very consistent."

The number one scouting report must be to keep Rotnei Clarke from shooting. The freshman guard got up only two attempts from the floor in a 74-65 loss at Ole Miss on Wednesday. His previous lows on attempts were 4 and 6 against Oklahoma and Texas, respectively.

"What I've seen in the last couple of games is a lot of ball fakes from Rotnei," Pelphrey said. "Certainly, teams are running at him hard, but he's got such a quick release and he's such a weapon, he's got to shoot it more.

"We talked about that today. He's got to become more aggressive. I'm not sure that we want him taking 20 shots (a game), but if he gets six to 10 we are going to get a few more baskets."

Pelphrey sees a great effort by the opposition to limit Clarke's shots.

"When we are in transition, you see the other coach yelling and pointing at Rotnei as we come down the court," Pelphrey said. "They know he's a great shooter. But we still can do a better job of finding him.

"But some of it is on him. He has to be more aggressive and we talked about that."

Clarke was asked Thursday if he could remember the last time he didn't score.

"I can't," he said. "I can't remember when I've had zero points and I've been playing basketball since I was four or five."

Like a true team player, Clarke downplayed that zero, only the fourth time in 15 college games where he's been held to single digits.

"It's not that big a deal," he said. "What's a big deal is we lost. If we had won it wouldn't have mattered at all.

"I do know that I have to take more shots, more than two in 28 minutes. Coach Pelphrey talked to me about that."

Clarke said the Hogs are going to continue to let threes fly, but coaches and players all said that there would be an emphasis on patience in halfcourt possessions. Threes don't have to come early in the shot clock.

"But I will find a way to get more shots," Clarke said. "Shooting 0-for-2 is not where I want to be. We just have to come together as a team."

Arkansas has made just six of 37 threes in its two conference losses. That doesn't sound good, but Clarke said there is no talk about a "slump" within the team.

"We are not calling it that," he said. "It's a tough little run. Stef (Welsh) and I talked about that in practice before the Ole Miss game. As a shooter, you have to believe the next one is going in."

The bad news is that the next ones will be shot at Florida. The Gators have held the opposition to 24.8 percent shooting on threes in their last six games.

Given those stats, Clarke said, "I'm having faith. I believe the next one is going in."



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