Hogs Rotation Shortened to Seven

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas forward Jason Henry had no idea how many Razorbacks played in the 74-72 loss to Tennessee until he arrived at Bud Walton Arena on Thursday.

Then the freshman, who logged a career-high 28 minutes against the Volunteers, heard the number. Seven. He just shrugged it off.

"It didn't feel like it," said Henry, who earned his first start against Tennessee. "I think it's going to have to work like that."

Arkansas, which hasn't been deep all season, was at its thinnest against the Volunteers. Only two players — forward Michael Sanchez and guard Marcus Britt — came off the bench. It meant that only seven Razorbacks played in the game.

It was the first time Arkansas has used just seven players since March 11, 1984, when the Razorbacks suffered a 57-56 loss to Houston in the Southwest Conference Tournament. And it might not be the last time. A short rotation isn't what coach John Pelphrey intends for his program, but he gave no indication it will change any time soon as Arkansas (13-7, 1-6 in Southeastern Conference) prepares to play at Mississippi State (15-7, 5-2).

"There will come a point in time where we'll have 10 guys," Pelphrey said. "We're just not there yet."

Depth has been an ongoing issue since last summer, when guard Patrick Beverley left the team to play overseas professionally. More recently, forward Montrell McDonald quit the team in December and former Marcus Monk has been sidelined the past four games because of an eligibility issue that still hasn't been resolved.

The Razorbacks have nine scholarship players without them, but Pelphrey elected not to play forwards Andre Clark and Brandon Moore against Tennessee. He said trust is an issue for both.

"They have some physical attributes that they can contribute to us, especially at the power forward spot in terms of rebounding the basketball," Pelphrey said. "But they've got to give us confidence that we can go in and we can operate from an offensive side, where, they know where to get to, taking the ball out of bounds, getting it into the right guy. Knowing the plays and those types of things. Their issues right now are more organizational as opposed to a talent level type of thing."

Stefan Welsh (38 minutes), Courtney Fortson (37) and Michael Washington (31) logged heavy minutes without them against the Vols. Henry and Rotnei Clarke played 28 apiece. Sanchez and Britt played 22 and 16, respectively, off the bench.

Tennessee countered with 11 players, but coach Bruce Pearl said he wasn't surprised only seven Razorbacks played Wednesday.

"In a close ballgame, when it is nip and tuck, you do tend to put your best people on the floor," Pearl said. "I don't think fatigue was a factor. I don't think it had anything to do with the outcome."

The Razorbacks will carry the same approach to MSU, but it doesn't mean Clark or Moore won't get a chance to help.

Pelphrey said the pair could get on the court if Washington or Sanchez are in early foul trouble. Arkansas may need to sneak a minute of rest for tiring players before official timeouts or save others from picking up careless fouls late in a half, too.

Leaning on seven players isn't ideal, but Welsh said it doesn't matter to the Razorbacks. They're just trying to win games.

"If coach doesn't feel like you're ready to help the team in certain situations in the basketball game he's not going to play you," Welsh said. "I know Coach Pelphrey and I know that he'd like to play everybody and keep everybody fresh. But unfortunately it hasn't been like that. We don't have the most depth. If he feels confident with seven guys that's what we're going to roll with."

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