Razorbacks' Belief Unwavering

FAYETTEVILLE — Of all the concerns Arkansas coach John Pelphrey has these days, wondering about his team's trust in itself is not among them.

Yes, the Razorbacks have lost 11 of their first 12 Southeastern Conference games. They don't have even one senior to help them fight through this rough stretch, either.

But even with a roster as young as any in college basketball, the Hogs have managed to remain confident in their abilities heading into tonight's game at Alabama. Conventional wisdom says a squad with an 1-11 league mark must question its worth.

Pelphrey's response to that: Not these resilient Razorbacks.

"There are times as a coach you worry about losing confidence, but that is one thing I am not worried about with these guys," Pelphrey said. "There is a belief in them as a team that we can win. ... I don't think we need a win for our confidence.

"We need a win for our peace of mind. We're working hard and we want the reward at the end."

Frustration obviously has set in with Arkansas, which hasn't won since last facing the Crimson Tide on Jan. 29. No basketball player likes going seven games without a victory.

That frustration hasn't turned to doom and gloom, however.

"That's because we think we can still do it," freshman point guard Courtney Fortson said. "We have no doubt on this team. I know we've lost a lot of games, but we still feel like we can win, probably (because of) our chemistry. We have great chemistry in the locker room, on and off the court."

Pelphrey's steady attitude, accompanied by ever-present intensity and optimism, has as much to do with that as anything, Fortson said.

"He basically has been himself (through the losing streak), always motivating," Fortson said.

The promise of a clean start also has motivated the Razorbacks. Freshman guard Rotnei Clarke has talked in recent weeks about the possibility of "making noise" at the SEC Tournament in Tampa.

He remembers the four-game run Georgia went on last season to unexpectedly earn an NCAA Tournament bid. And he sees no reason why the Razorbacks shouldn't build toward a similar performance.

"Knowing that we have more games to play, knowing the season's not over (keeps us going)," Clarke said. "It has been tough losing these games, knowing we're having opportunities to win and we're just not doing it. But there's still games left and knowing we could (play well at) the (SEC) tournament makes us work harder."

The Razorbacks (13-12, 1-11) should naturally feel confident tonight in Tuscaloosa considering the way they dominated Alabama during their nine-point victory in Fayetteville.

Then again, Pelphrey doesn't see it as any advantage that Arkansas already has beaten Alabama (14-12, 4-8).

"Sometimes, what happened in the first game has no bearing on the second when you're on someone else's home floor," Pelphrey said.

Fortson's hoping for a repeat outcome, though. All the Hogs need is one victory, Fortson said, and their confidence will skyrocket even higher.

"We feel like we need to just keep going out and trying to find a way to win," Fortson said. "And when we do get one, I think we'll start closing out a lot of games."

Today's Ticket

Arkansas at Alabama

When: 6 p.m. TV: None

Where: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Records: Arkansas 13-12, 1-11 Southeastern Conference; Alabama 14-12, 4-8

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

Coaches: Arkansas, John Pelphrey (36-24, 2nd season at Arkansas; 116-90 overall in 7 seasons); Alabama, Phillip Pearson (2-5, interim season at Alabama)

Series: Arkansas leads 26-21 (Alabama leads 14-5 in Tuscaloosa)

Last Meeting: Arkansas beat Alabama 89-80 on Jan. 29 in Fayetteville

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