The first semester for the University of Arkansas basketball team was filled with suspensions, injuries, some unexpected losses and a recent three-game stretch in which cupcakes were finally devoured.
So how does Razorback coach John Pelphrey feel at 5-5 with the schedule strength about to pick up and with a couple players injured and another still suspended?
"It's always easy to look back at the path after you have been through the forest," Pelphrey said. "But hopefully we can use those experiences to be better and build down the road."
It something they hope to do as there are no longer classes to deal with for about a month and it's all basketball all the time.
The Razorbacks – riding a three-game streak - certainly have a formidable foe Saturday with Stephen F. Austin (6-2) bringing it its five-game winning streak for a 3 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
The Lumberjacks have won 56 of their past 71 games, including going 26-6 and 24-7 the past two seasons under head coach Danny Kasper.
"They have had a huge amount of success the last few years," Pelphrey said. "I think the last two years they have done better than any teams in the history of the school.
"They have a core group of guys, an understanding of success and how to build a program, they way to go about doing things," Pelphrey added. "They have done well in their conference and had the opportunity to get to post-season play."
While SFA is 0-3 all time against Arkansas - including a 67-51 loss at Bud Walton Arena last season, the Lumberjacks have taken down a couple of Big 12 squads.
"They have beaten some Big 12 teams over that time," Pelphrey said. "I know they beat Oklahoma and I think they beat Baylor. They are off to a very good start to this season."
Rotnei Clarke, the Razorbacks' leading scorer at 21 points per game, missed Wednesday's 73-51 win over Alabama State, and is listed as day-to-day for this game with tendinitis in his knee.
If he does play, Clarke will find a defense that was the nation's best defending 3-pointers last season at 26.6 percent, but is near the bottom in the nation at that this season (331 of 334 teams) with 44.3 percent of those shots finding the mark this season.
Still they play extremely tough defense inside the arc.
"Coach Casper's teams are hard-nosed and physical with their defense and they are going to make you earn your baskets," Pelphrey said. "They are not going to give you a lot of angles. It is a physical, physical basketball game."
Stephen F. Austin is led by 6-2 junior guard Eddie Williams (15.3), 6-5 senior guard Walt Harris (11.0), and 6-7, 230-pound sophomore forward Jereal Scott (10.8).
Scott had a game-high 22 points in the Lumberjacks' 73-69 win at Longwood last Saturday.
SFA is also getting great effort from 6-7, 225-pound junior forward Jordan Glynn, who has had three straight double-double efforts and four games of 10 rebounds or more in a row.
"We will have to be very good defensively and stick to some fundamental things," Pelphrey said.
Stephen F. Austin has wins over Hutson-Tillman, Jackson State, Southern, Cal-State Fullerton and Longwood in its current win streak.
The Lumberjacks' two losses have been by 40 at Minnesota and a two-point loss to visiting Texas Tech on Nov. 24th – the last time they have suffered a defeat.
Arkansas will be without Michael Sanchez because of his injured and will once again play without starting point guard Courtney Fortson, who has not played yet this season.
Pelphrey does admit that he has thought a little bit about how great it would be to actually send all 11 players out there for a game.
"I might have 10 or 15 seconds of that before I realize it's not the real world," Pelphrey said.
The Razorbacks have had seven players miss a combined 30 games of action.
"It's always something," freshman Glenn Bryant said.
But Pelphrey says he and the team just get back to work.
"I try not to spend a whole lot of time worrying about who is not out there," Pelphrey said. "I don't mean that in a derogatory way because we obviously care about all these guys and want them to get better. But we're just going to have to figure out how to win basketball games with the guys we have in uniforms."
A Lumberjack Christmas
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