John Pelphrey’s tenure as the Arkansas Razorbacks head basketball coach has been anything but calm. From dealing with the fallout of a dangerously low Academic Progress Rate (APR), to numerous player changes and extraordinary suspensions, Pelphrey has not had a lack of issues to address.
Right or wrong, in his philosophy of team discipline, Pelphrey has been consistent. The performance of the basketball team has been anything but. In the 2008-2009 season, the Razorbacks showed their youth with an impressive 12-1 record in non-conference play only to seemingly hit a wall in conference play, winning only two games—against Alabama and Georgia.
A 2-14 league record is tough to swallow for any fan base, but particularly for Arkansas fans that remember the “Glory Days” of Razorback basketball. In the minds of many, 2-14 was stretching the limits of what was expected to be a rebuilding year.
In 2009-2010, the Razorbacks, fueled by the return of Courtney Fortson, seem determined to shake off their ugly non-conference start (7-8) and treat SEC play as a new season (4-3).
On Wednesday’s game against Georgia, the Razorbacks appeared sluggish and unmotivated during the first half, and Georgia garnered a 15 point halftime lead going into the locker room.
After seeing it all during the ups and downs of his short Arkansas coaching career, Pelphrey trod into the visitor’s locker room and addressed his unpredictable squad: “I told the guys at halftime, tonight’s just not going to be our night. We’re not going to be able to get it done. Just go ahead and keep it close and we’ll try to get back in.”
According to Rotnei Clarke, that provoked some anger in the team.
Georgia fans saw a different Arkansas team emerge for the second half. Although the offense picked up (Arkansas scored 50 points in the second half as opposed to only 22 in the first half), the real difference was on the defensive side of the ball, as the Razorbacks crowded the lane and began attacking Georgia’s dribble.
One thing is certain—if Pelphrey’s unconventional coaching approach continues to bring SEC wins, it will be applauded instead of questioned.
What remains to be seen is whether this team can overcome a weak SEC West and win some quality games against SEC East opponents in the SEC Tournament. Two consecutive road wins was an important first step, the next step is to put together a complete, 40-minute game against Auburn at home.