Pelphrey: MSU best foe of year

Missouri State represents a big challenge for the Hogs. The Bears are 10-0 as they head to Fayetteville for Tuesday night's game.

Missouri State tries to sweep its Arkansas road trip with a visit to Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday. The 10-0 Bears won at Arkansas-Little Rock, 75-62, and at Arkansas State, 75-64.

"They will be the best team we've played," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said Sunday. "They've played well against some quality opponents at home and against some quality opponents on the road.

"They are a really, really good team. They have a very good RPI. It will be a big challenge. They are a lot like they were last year."

Missouri State defeated the Hogs, 62-57, last year in the first game in the new John Q. Hammons Center in Springfield.

Pelphrey noted that sophomore guard Courtney Fortson is still suspended. He said, "There is no change. He will not play (against Missouri State)."

However, the Hogs appear to be at full strength otherwise. Center Michael Washington (back) and guard Rotnei Clarke (knee) were "fine" on Sunday. Clarke visited with the media and said he doesn't expect to have anymore problems with the knee that knocked him out of a game Wednesday night and forced him to come off the bench for the first time in his career Saturday afternoon in a 72-69 victory over Stephen F. Austin.

"Mike is fine," Pelphrey said of Washington's back. Washington scored a season high 25 points and went over 20 for the second straight game.

"Mike's energy was tremendous. That was one of the better performances he's ever had. We had to have that (to win). He played well. You look at what he did and as much as he had the ball, he had zero turnovers."

Pelphrey said the assignment of guarding MSU forward Kyle Weems, 6-6 by 230 sophomore, would go to freshman Marshawn Powell. However, Powell will need help.

"They have a tremendous shooting baskeetball team, especially their power forward (Weems)," Pelphrey said. "What he does is important for them on both ends. He really can shoot from the 3-point line.

"We will have to play team defense. We will have to make sure we do well against their pick and rolls (with Weems). He plays with great effrort. He is physical and gets offensive rebounds. He does a lot for their team. The best thing we can do is play him with our team."

As pleased as Pelphrey was to get a victory over SFA, he said there were many things that displeased him with the Hogs' play Saturday.

"There is a lot of stuff we did that could have cost us that game," he said. "We had free throws where we didn't block out. We had careless turnovers and we had missed free throws.

"The last play of the game, we didn't switch properly and they got an open 3-pointer. That could have cost us. There was another play where Stef (Welsh) let their guard come straight down the floor and hit a 3-pointer. We didn't do some mental things right."

Pelphrey knows it may be a different atmosphere in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday. With only 13,641 season tickets sold, there will be an opportunity for MSU fans to join the crowd.

"Our fans have done a good job for us," Pelphrey said. "It's still Bud Walton Arena. They've been so supportive.

"(Missouri State) does have a very good basketball environment, too. I'd be surprised if they didn't have a good contingent at this game. They did two years ago here."

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