Confident Clarke Leading Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Rotnei Clarke hasn't forgotten what happened the last time the Razorbacks played Ole Miss.

The freshman might not be able to recite every little detail, but he knows the bottom line: Arkansas suffered an embarrassing 74-65 loss. He only managed to take two shots in 28 minutes. And he didn't score a point.

"I haven't had a lot of times where I hadn't scored in my career," Clarke. "It was tough. But I think the worst part was knowing I didn't contribute to the team and we lost."

Clarke will get an opportunity to make amends for the early-season frustration when Arkansas (14-13, 2-12 Southeastern Conference) plays Ole Miss (15-13, 6-8) in Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night.

After being held scoreless in three of Arkansas' first seven SEC games, he is enjoying one of his best offensive stretches of the season. In fact, Clarke has become one of the Razorbacks' most dependable scorers.

He's averaging 14.9 points in the last seven games, including his team-high of 19 in the 89-67 win against Georgia. He's shooting 43.2 percent from the field during the stretch, 41.9 percent behind the 3-point line and has knocked down four 3-pointers in six of seven games.

Clarke has had so much success the Razorbacks are starting to expect even more on a daily basis.

"He'll be the first to tell you he could've made seven or eight (Sunday) afternoon," coach John Pelphrey said.

Said Clarke: "Some of my teammates were dogging me a little bit because I messed up a couple of their assists."

Clarke came to Arkansas regarded as a 3-point specialist but attributes his recent success to his improving ability to score in other ways. Clarke has picked up points by driving to the hoop, getting layups in transition and has even been finding ways to get to the free-throw line.

The success elsewhere has helped him find more open opportunities from long range.

"Obviously I was a little uncomfortable with the speed coming out of high school," Clarke said. "Now I think I'm adjusting and I think I've been doing a good job the past five or six games of knowing where to go, knowing when to get to the hole. I think I've done a good job of sort of balancing that to where it opens up my shot."

Clarke proved it against Georgia. He got steals and scored on layups. He got fouled and made free throws. He even scored on a putback. He added four 3-pointers.

"I've always said he's much more than just a 3-point shooter," Pelphrey said. "If all you are is a 3-point shooter, then it's very difficult to get 3-point shots all the time.

"You've got to be able to do some other things and those 3-point opportunities will come to you."

Clarke believes the success also has come from the extra work he's put in to get through his slow SEC start.

Earlier this year, Clarke stayed after practice and put up between 100 and 150 extra shots every day. When he was struggling several weeks ago, he increased his routine and now shoots between 350 and 500 every day.

Now, Clarke has become much more confident in time for Arkansas' second game against the Rebels.

"I've been in the gym working and practicing a lot," Clarke said. "I guess I'm on a streak, kind of."

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