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March 9, 2011

Rotnei Clarke

Delvon Johnson

John Pelphrey


THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Arkansas. We'll get started with an opening statement by Coach Pelphrey.
COACH PELPHREY: Well, we're certainly excited about being here. It's a wonderful environment. Certainly I got a lot of memories as a coach and player being in the SEC tournament. And it's exciting for our guys.
With regards our team coming in here, I felt going into last week we were playing very good basketball, I think we were winners of four of our last five. Three of our last four certainly in league play. I thought we played well last week. We just didn't have anything to show for it. We ran into two basketball teams that shot the ball outstanding from the 3-point line.
We scored the ball pretty well ourselves last week and only had 21 turnovers, I believe, in two games. And at this time of year, there's not a whole lot of separation between teams, and it comes down to a few place here or there.
So I say that I think we're still playing pretty good basketball and I think the guys are excited about being here and ready to go.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take your questions.

Q. Coach, you guys opened the SEC season with Tennessee a long time ago. When you were going through the film, you probably saw Tennessee playing some really great basketball and bad basketball. Just which Tennessee team do you prepare for?
COACH PELPHREY: We think that Tennessee's a tremendous basketball team, has great depth, good experience, tremendous coaching.
We know it's going to take a lot of toughness on our behalf. We're going to have to take care of the basketball. We understand how great they are in transition, and we have got to make sure we do the right things that's going to limit that. Take care of it, get good shots, score, and then get back and get our defense set.
So we understand what a terrific basketball team they are and a lot of respect for their program and Coach Pearl and what they have been able to accomplish.

Q. Peterson was practicing. Was this his first practice or how did he look to you? What would it mean to have him back? If the guys could both talk about the getting Jeff back.
COACH PELPHREY: He practiced a little bit today for the first time in a very abbreviated portion of our practice. We just felt like if he's going to have a chance to play tomorrow, he's got to get a little confidence today. By far the most he's done since he hurt it. We'll have to wait and see.
It does mean a lot to us. I thought Jeff in our stretch there of wining four out of five was playing really good basketball. Made a huge play at the end of the Kentucky game with the fast break, the lose ball and fast break, the pass to Marcus.
He gives us another dimension in the point guard spot with not only defense, but experience. Tremendous starter of our offense because he's an outstanding outlet passer. Then he's gotten to where he's started to score the ball a little bit.
So it would mean a lot to be able to get him back out there. I don't know what percentage it would be in terms of where he's at. I don't think he will be a hundred percent, but having him out there would be a big deal for us.
ROTNEI CLARKE: About Jeff? Yeah, he covered pretty much all the basics of it. He's a huge part of our team, he's very unselfish, works hard every single day, and he's really playing well. It hurt losing him, but we have some guys that are trying to step up and fill in. But hopefully he can get back out there. It will be huge for us.
DELVON JOHNSON: He pretty much said everything.

Q. For Delvon, the first meeting with Tennessee, were you pretty effective inside? How were you able to be that effective against a team that really -- Tennessee's rebounded pretty well this year.
DELVON JOHNSON: I give all my credit to my teammates because I watch the film the other day, and like all my points came from like them driving, throwing a lob, a little dump down pass. I mean, because the guards driving, I score so much. So I thank them for it. So we got to try to do the same thing in this game.

Q. Delvon was on the all-defensive team. Talk about his defense and Delvon talk about maybe what that meant to you to get that honor.
COACH PELPHREY: Well, I think Delvon, he epitomizes what it's all about to be a Razorback. We talk a lot about the Razorback Way, and it's having a respect level for where you play the game, how hard you work. And when you get your opportunity being apart of a team, you take full advantage of it. And as soon as the season was over last year, he went to work, changed his body, and the rest is kind of history so to speak.
He's had a chance to move in there and play, be counted on all season long. He's been the leader of our defense in terms of communication. He's played when he's healthy; he's played when he's hurt. He's played against really good teams, the best around. He really has made the most of his opportunity.
And I think that says something, that's something that we're very, very proud of him for. And then to get this award on top of that, tremendous honor in this league because of the coaches and the players and how good it is. That's something that he should be very, very proud of, and we are very, very proud of him for the way he's performed.
DELVON JOHNSON: It feels real good to me because I'm a defensive guy. Offense isn't my thing really, so I live for defense. So to get that award is a real big thing for me.

Q. Can you talk about when it came time to vote for coach of the year and you had to choose between Billy and Anthony and who you voted for and how difficult that was for you?
COACH PELPHREY: Well, I think there's a lot of great coaches in this league. I think that the fact that both of those guys were able to win their side and it's come from two different spectrums, because Billy's team was perceived to be good in the preseason and that's a tribute to Billy for how he's coached those guys in the past and put that team together.
Then obviously to be able to live up to expectations is not easy. I'm not very big on preseason awards and rankings and all that stuff. It's more for the media and fans anyway. But once that stuff gets out there, there's an expectation and to be able to live up to it, that's not easy to do. Certainly Billy's done that. This season. He's done it in the past.
Anthony, you know, his basketball team, I think, he's done just an amazing job with them. That's evident in how many games they won. And I think that it's just a tremendous, tremendous season. So he's very, very deserving to be in consideration there.
The other thing I would say, too, is I think we're probably all a little bit surprised that the success that Billy's had that he's not gotten that award. But individual awards are somebody's opinion, and I don't think really any of those guys care about that stuff. They're more consumed with the team things and winning and losing, because those aren't argumentative. They're just truths. They're just facts.
I can't remember the numbers or when it was, but there was a long period of time where Pat Riley was one of the best coaches in the NBA and never won the award as well. So at the end of the day, I don't know if those guys were really caught up too much in individual awards. They're more consumed with their teams and making sure those players are overachieving and reaching their potential.

Q. Are you going to reveal your vote?
COACH PELPHREY: I'm okay with that right now. I don't think so (Laughter). I voted for both of them. Can you do that?

Q. Did you vote for Tebow for all conference player?
COACH PELPHREY: Yeah I think so (Laughter).

Q. When you played Tennessee, it was such a long time ago. What value is that film to look at in terms of preparing for this game?
COACH PELPHREY: I think that both teams, you're right, it was such a long period of time, so many games have been played, there's probably a value to it to some things in terms of just to see how good Tennessee is. You see how hard that you got to play, you see the toughness that you got to play with.
But both basketball teams, it was a long time ago and probably a little bit different. Certainly for Tennessee, it was their first game without Coach Pearl and he's back. And now they have got eight or nine games or whatever it is under their belt and starting to get a little bit of rhythm having him around.
So I think that both teams are a lot different. But you in watching it, and understanding it, you understand how big they are, how deep they are, how experienced they are, how athletic they are. And the toughness you got to play with if you're going to compete with Tennessee.

Q. You mentioned them having more of a rhythm. Do you think that Bruce Pearl's absence has a little something to do with maybe why Tennessee hasn't been as consistent as previous years?
COACH PELPHREY: I'm not a good frame of reference for that. That's probably something Coach Pearl would have a better chance of answering. Again, I only get to see those guys play limited number of times a year. All I can tell you is he's a great coach. They have had great personnel. Tennessee certainly the things that they have been doing here of late is as big as the program's ever had.

Q. With DELVON JOHNSON and Scotty Hopson, have you noticed a difference in their game since you played them at the start of the year?
COACH PELPHREY: I think they had good preseasons there and had some big games, both those young men. I think obviously going through NCAA's, they're both very seasoned, very experienced had the opportunity to see a lot of different game plans to try to slow them up. So I would just say the experience level is at another level right now, which makes them even tougher. So they got tremendous God-given ability. They play in a great system for themselves. And now all of a sudden, they have got 30-some games under their belt. You can't really put a measuring stick on experience.

Q. Talk about the new life the tournament represents, an opportunity, four days, if you win, you can be in the NCAA tournament. Just talk about that opportunity.
COACH PELPHREY: Go ahead, guys.
ROTNEI CLARKE: It's exciting. All the records and the wins and losses are really thrown out, and anyone who comes into this tournament has a chance to win it and has the same opportunity as everyone else does to get to the NCAA tournament and it's big. It's exciting for us. And we're looking forward to it.
DELVON JOHNSON: It's a new season, so like everybody got a chance. So I mean, if you win, then you're going to the NCAA tournament. Everybody wants to go there. So it's a new season and everybody gets the same opportunity.

Q. Does the fact that Mississippi State did it a few years ago, Georgia did it, does that give you guys added, Hey, they did it, why can't we do it?
ROTNEI CLARKE: They did do that, but we know anything's possible coming into this tournament. Even if they hadn't done it before that we would probably still think we had a good chance. It's going to be tough, four games in four days is really tough. But it's possible and we have seen people do it before.
DELVON JOHNSON: It's possible. We just got to get on a hot streak. So you start wining games, you'll be all right.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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