No Turkeys For Thanksgiving

Arkansas' basketball team faces a Thanksgiving Week schedule that includes Morgan State on Tuesday night, East Tennessee State on Friday and South Alabama on Sunday - all teams that have been in the NCAA Tournament and won their conferences in the past two years.

Thanksgiving may be approaching, but there are certainly no Turkeys lined up on the schedule at Bud Walton Arena this week.

It's Morgan State (3-1) on Tuesday night, East Tennessee State (1-3) on Friday and South Alabama (3-2) on Sunday - all who have shown to be solid mid-major programs, all have made the NCAA Tournament in the last two years and all coaches who have enjoyed a great deal of success in their careers.

"These are very good basketball teams," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "We are very fortunate to be playing this games at home and we do need our fans. I thought our student body was great the other night and we are going to need that. But these are very good basketball teams and they have had success."

Morgan State is coached by former California head coach Todd Bozeman, who was named the 2009 Mid-Major Coach of the Year after leading his team to the 2009 MEAC Championship and into the NCAA Tournament before losing in the opening round to Oklahoma.

He is in his fourth year as head coach of the Bulldogs and is 71-42 during the time. His record includes an upset of Maryland and a 23-12 mark last season.

"Obviously Todd has done a very good job there," Pelphrey said. "They were an NCAA Tournament team a year ago, picked to win their league again and I have been very, very impressed with them on film. You start looking at the number of road games they have played in the last three years and the record they have got is pretty impressive. They have already got a couple of road wins this year and performed very well at Louisville without their starting point guard."

East Tennessee State - who was 23-11 last season while winning the Atlantic Sun Conference title for head coach Murray Bartow - lost to Pittsburgh 72-62 in the opening round of the Big Dance.

South Alabama - Pelphrey's first head coaching stop - has legendary coach Ronnie Arrow leading the charge again along with former Arkansas prep standout Bryan Sherrer of Monticello.

He led the Jaguars to the school-record 26 wins in 2007-2008 with a team recruited by Pelphrey and into the NCAA Tournament that season.

But Morgan State is first up and will be coming into this game off a 90-81 loss to Louisville at Freedom Hall on Sunday.

That is the same Cardinals team that downed Arkansas 96-66 last Tuesday in St. Louis in the Hall of Fame Showcase, an event that continues for the Razorbacks with the first two games this week.

Pelphrey was asked if he thought that would get his squad's attention.

"When you go into Freedom Hall and play those guys to nine points and you know what our score was, there is no doubt about that," Pelphrey said.

The Bulldogs are led by 6-4 senior guard Reggie Holmes, who is averaging 21.3 points per game so far this season.

"Holmes is obviously a tremendous, tremendous scorer," Pelphrey said. "He is a young man that could play at a lot of different places. So we are going to have our hands full defensively again.

"He can get them (points) a number of ways," Pelphrey added. "He can come off screens, he can shoot threes. He is going to come off those screens and if you are there, he is going ball fake you, he is going to foot fake you and get in the lane. He is just a big-time guard. And when he starts driving that ball, obviously that helps him get to the free throw line. He has good size so he is not going to get bogged down with having bigger defenders on him. Their whole team is pretty good in transition."

They also have 6-8, 240-pound sophomore power forward Kevin Thompson (11.3), 6-10, 225-pound junior center Rodney Stokes , 6-8, 210-pound freshman small forward DeWayne Jackson - who had 21 points against Louisville - and junior point guard Danny Smith, who missed the game with the Cardinals.

"It is another basketball team that I think is very physically gifted in the backcourt," Pelphrey said. "And they have a 6-8 kid that is very athletic at small forward in Jackson so we will have our hands full...The thing that is probably most concerning is - because we are always going to go against systems and stuff where they can score and stuff - but they defend, they guard. Their defensive numbers are very, very impressive."

Arkansas will go into the game with seven scholarship players once again with three players still suspended and redshirt sophomore forward Michael Sanchez still injured.

Morgan State will no doubt try to take advantage of the Razorbacks being short-handed.

"I think they are going to be opportunistic with the fast break, go on the attack and be aggressive," Pelphrey said. "But they are going to get the ball to who they want to. They are going to give themselves a chance to let the big kid touch it up front and then Holmes has a little bit more of a green light than anybody else."


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