February 6, 2009
Arkansas men''s basketball coach John Pelphrey knows it will take an outstanding effort out of his team at 2 p.m. Saturday (WCBI) to beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Humphrey Coliseum.
Pelphrey has already witnessed what the Bulldogs can do when they''re not at their best. Mississippi State beat Arkansas 70-56 on Jan 10 in Fayetteville, Ark.
"If we don''t play well, we don''t have much of a chance because last time they defended us very well and we didn''t make any shots," Pelphey said.
Mississippi State (15-7, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) held the Razorbacks to 14 percent shooting (3 of 22) from 3-point range. Arkansas'' 56 points are the fewest the Bulldogs have alloweed in a conference game this season.
Pelphrey saw the Bulldogs could be pretty good on offense, too.
"They were awesome in transition," Pelphrey said. "They really shot the basketball well from the 3-point line, have a great weapon in (Jarvis) Varnado, an All-SEC coach in (Rick) Stansbury, and now we have to deal with Humphrey Coliseum, so it''s a big challenge for us, and we''re looking forward to it. We''d like to be able to get our first SEC road win."
Stansbury understands Arkansas (13-7) can be a difficult matchup despite its 1-6 conference record.
"I know everybody gets caught up in records, but they can take two or three games and flip it the other way and the record would be totally different," Stansbury said. "We have a lot of respect for John and what he''s done at Arkansas. We have to focus on the moment because every moment is different."
MSU junior guard Barry Stewart, who had 17 points in the first meeting, anticipates a the Razorbacks to offer a bigger challenge.
"We know they are going to come after us," Stewart said. "We know they are looking for some payback. I think we''ll be ready."
The Bulldogs are shooting 38 percent (174 of 462) from 3-point range and have the nation''s top 3-point shooter in sophomore Ravern Johnson at 49 percent (58 of 118). Johnson leads the team with 13 points per game.
"Those times when we''ve shot the basketball well we''ve been pretty good," Stansbury said. "There have been some other times we haven''t shot as well and there''s a small margin for error for this basketball team."
Michael Washington (17.2 ppg.), Courtney Fortson (14.6 ppg.), Stefan Welch (12.5 ppg.), and Rotnei Clarke (10.8 ppg.) average in double figures for Arkansas.
"When they get going, they can give a lot of people problems," MSU sophomore guard Phil Turner said.
Stansbury is concerned with Jason Henry (7.4 ppg).
"When you insert Henry, that gives them a little more versatility, a little more athleticism and makes them more difficult to defend," Stansbury said. "He''s a guy who can beat you in multiple ways because he is an adequate shooter and his shot will get better with more playing time. Fortson is always a dangerous guy. I thought he played terrific (against Tennessee) and you''ve got the big guy in the middle who is very capable of being as good as anybody in this league on a given night."
n NOTE: MSU will honor former player Bailey Howell and retire his jersey at halftime of Saturday''s game.
Howell is second on the school''s all-time scoring list with 2,030 career points. He enjoyed a 12-year career in the NBA, and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.