No Easy Task

Fresh off a SEC home win over Alabama, Arkansas must kick it up another notch this week with Florida (12-5, 1-2) visiting Bud Walton Arena on Thursday and what will be rested and unbeaten No. 2 Kentucky (18-0, 3-0) waiting on the Razorbacks (8-9, 1-1) in Rupp Arena on Saturday.

The schedule makers did neither John Pelphrey or his University of Arkansas basketball team any favors this week.

After a big Saturday win over good friend Anthony Grant and Alabama on Saturday, it could have been a little easier to not be facing one of his former bosses who has two national championships and then his former school – the second-ranked team in the country.

But Thursday night's 8 p.m. home game featuring Arkansas (8-9, 1-1) and Florida (12-5, 1-2) on ESPN and Saturday afternoon's 3 p.m. road game at No. 2 Kentucky (18-0, 3-0) on the SEC network are what's next on the slate.

"The short turnaround is obviously a by-product of our conference having the best television package in the country," Pelphrey said on Monday's SEC Coaches Teleconference. "This is another big challenge. I think we have three straight weekends of the Thursday-Saturday.

"…The logistics of all that stuff is hard, but the hardest thing is going to be the teams we are playing," Pelphrey added. "Florida is outstanding, great, great coaching and obviously Kentucky is having an unbelievable season."

Donovan said he empathizes with his former assistant.

"I think all those situations are always hard leading up into a game preparation wise," Donovan said. "There is a close bond that John, myself and Anthony have and certainly the feeling that John has through his playing experience at Kentucky means a lot to him.

"I do think the easier time for these situations is once the game starts," Donovan added. "When you get caught up in the game, caught up in coaching your team and dealing with the situation, I think the hard part is the days leading up to those type of games. It is not an enjoyable situation probably for all of us, but you know what, we are all blessed to be in great situations at great institutions and we are fortunate to be able to coach.

Donovan is impressed with what he has seen on the court from Arkansas lately - including the 71-59 win over Alabama on Saturday.

"I think John is doing a great job for them," Donovan said. "I think at the start of the year, with maybe not having a full allotment of players and now, after the holidays and the break really their team all back together - they have played really, really good basketball.

"They played a great game against Texas, had an opportunity and made a great run at Mississippi State and then had a good home win against Alabama," Donovan added. "I think that with them having their team somewhat back together right now they are really improving and getting better."

Florida has lost its first two conference games - at Vanderbilt and at home to Kentucky - before downing LSU 72-58 on Saturday.

They have suffered through some illness and injuries after opening the season 8-0 and have gone 4-5 in their last nine games.

"This is probably going to be the first week coming that we will have somewhat good health going into practice and – knock on wood – that will continue Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before we play on Thursday."

Donovan knows what his team could be walking into on Thursday night.

"I think that going to Arkansas and playing at their place is always a great challenge for any team," Donovan said. "They have got a great environment there."

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Kentucky, who won 72-67 at Auburn on Saturday, has the whole week off before hosting Arkansas on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

UK head coach John Calipari says he is trying to keep his kids humble – and used a very interesting analogy to get across.

"I am trying to everything I can to get these guys to just stay humble in the success we are having and understand that we are not as good as everybody thinks we are," Calipari said. "Stay humble, but also stay hungry. ‘Are you also trying to get better? Are you trying to learn every day you step on that floor?'

"Sometimes it is hard for a 19-year old – and we have a bunch of guys on our team – that are told that basically that poop ice cream," Calipari said.

To that end, Calipari and his team worked to raise money for Haiti on Sunday.

"We raised over $500,000 and there were matching donations to make it almost more than a million and auction items," Calipari said. "It was just a great experience for our players to start understanding at a young age that you can use your fame and fortune for others or you can hold onto it tightly.

"I think they looked at this thing and said ‘wow, I didn't know that we had this kind of impact," Calipari said. "So it had a great impact. I was just very emotionally pulled and tossed by it because there were calls that we were getting with people crying, trying to give us things because they had absolutely no money to give, but they wanted to give something."

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Pelphrey noted that redshirt sophomore forward Michael Sanchez (planter fasciitis) is still not practicing.

"We are still a man down with Sanchez, which is big," Pelphrey said. "This basically would be his third year and I don't know if we are going to get him back or not. But this is as many numbers and as healthy as we have been all season long."

Marshawn Powell

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