Pelphrey not a fan of playing former team

Published: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 12:13 a.m.

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey’s return to the O’Connell Center Saturday was sentimental, but the end result didn’t go as planned.

Pelphrey, who served as the assistant coach at Florida from 1997-2002, entered his old workplace looking to have his team bounce back after dropping its first two Southeastern Conference games. Instead he left with an 80-65 loss and a three-game losing streak.

Pelphrey said he “hates” the idea of having to play the Gators because of the notable experiences he had while working with UF coach Billy Donovan.

“Being a part of that coaching staff was special, special times,” Pelphrey said. “I hope to have a long opportunity to be a part of a lot more coaching staffs and have some great relationships, but there was just something about that group of guys.”

Another special moment for Pelphrey was getting to see one of his old friends on the job.

He’d been on a bit of a hiatus for a while, but just before Pelphrey and his team were introduced Saturday, the basketball team’s second mascot — the Grim Reaper — showed up for the first time all season.

“I had a feeling that today that was going to show back up,” he said. (Athletic director) Mr. (Jeremy) Foley, that’s his guy. ... I thought it was pretty funny.”

What isn’t funny is how the Razorbacks allowed the Gators to take them out of their game after going on a 16-1 run during the first half.

UF applied its press for most of the game, causing Arkansas to lose much of its pace and rush its shots. The Gators’ stifling defense also forced the Razorbacks to turn the ball over 19 times.

Razorbacks guard Marcus Britt said that as the game progressed, he could see him and his teammates losing focus on offense and began worrying too much about getting the ball to the hoop instead of taking the time to set the offense.

“When we’re patient, we can beat the press,” he said. “Most of the time we weren’t patient and we tried to get one man to take the ball upcourt and when they press you can’t do that.”

The Razorbacks also failed to capitalize on their size inside. With bigger bodies like Michael Washington (6-9, 239 pounds) and Michael Sanchez (6-8, 236 pounds) in the frontcourt, Arkansas appeared to have a heavy size advantage under the rim.

Washington did his part, scoring a team-high 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds, but early foul trouble limited Sanchez to just five points and zero rebounds in 17 minutes.

“We were going to try and pound it in and use (their size) to our advantage,” guard/forward Marcus Monk said.

After a promising start with wins over Oklahoma (No. 5) and Texas (No. 11) the Razorbacks are searching for some sort of confidence to carry them to their first conference win. That confidence should emerge as Arkansas gets a much-needed seven days off to prepare for its next game against Auburn at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark.

To Monk, this team has to get back to the basics and get back to playing fundamental basketball.

“It will turn around at some point,” Monk said. “We could play better defense and rebound a little bit more.”

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