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Enter the Trojans

The Razorbacks take on Troy at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m.
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Legends Return, but Don’t Stop There

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

FAYETTEVILLE - Scanning a half-empty (or was it half-full?) crowd made it easy to spot some famous people at last night’s Arkansas-Oklahoma basketball game at Bud Walton Arena.

In attendance were Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Jim Counce from the 1978 Final Four team, and Clint McDaniel from the Razorbacks’ 1994 national championship team.

Scotty Thurman, who hit the shot to give Arkansas the lead for good in the 1994 national championship game, was on the bench in his first year as director of player development. Thurman was partially responsible for gathering the legends at the game, he said Wednesday while speaking to the Northwest Arkansas Tip-Off Club in Springdale.

Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said following the game it was important to have former players attending games and being around the program.

“Those guys are a huge part of what make it special to be a Razorback,” Pelphrey said. “We are so proud of our past and we celebrate it. I’m glad those guys were here. I’m certainly glad we could perform well enough to get a win. Those guys set a standard pretty high and we all try to live up to it.”

Now, the University of Arkansas needs to take it a step further and recognize the players by hanging several of their jerseys in the rafters of Bud Walton Arena. There are currently no jerseys hung at the arena, though Moncrief’s No. 32 and Corliss Williamson’s No. 34 have not been worn since they left the program. Others like Thurman, Brewer and Todd Day are among those deserving of such an honor from the school.

With Arkansas’ history in basketball and showcase of an arena, it’s shame this hasn’t been done already. Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, Duke’s Cameron Indoor Arena, North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center and UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion have rafters littered with jerseys from the past. While Arkansas doesn’t quite meet the standards those programs have set, it does have a rich basketball history with six Final Four appearances and a national championship trophy.

Not to mention, a ceremony celebrating one of the Razorbacks’ legends of the past would sell tickets – something the school desperately needs with crowds filling less than half the arena this year.

But for now, just having them back is a nice starting point. Here’s to hoping it is taken a step further, and soon.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Arkansas Downs Oklahoma 84-74

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

FAYETTEVILLE - Rotnei Clarke scored 20 points and Arkansas trailed only briefly in a 84-74 win over Oklahoma Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks (4-1) held off several Sooners runs in the game’s final minutes for its second win in three years over its border rival. Arkansas led by as many as 17 points after staking a six-point halftime lead.

Jeff Peterson scored 15 points and added five assists for the Razorbacks, while newcomers Marvell Waithe (eight points, six rebounds), Rickey Scott (five points) and Mardracus Wade (eight points, two steals) each had the best games of their young careers.

“Tonight was a team victory,” Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. “Everybody did a little bit of something to help us win.”

Clarke hit 3 of 5 attempts from 3-point range and became the fastest player in Arkansas history to hit 200 3-pointers in a career. Arkansas hit 5 of 11 from beyond the arc as a team after going 3-for-21 in its last game.

Andrew Fitzgerald scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a losing effort for the Sooners (3-4).

Arkansas hit 28 of 55 of its field goal attempts and scored 28 points off 22 Oklahoma turnovers.

It was a nice turnaround after Arkansas hit just 38 percent of its shots in an overtime loss to Alabama-Birmingham last Friday in North Little Rock.

The Sooners stayed in the game thanks to a large rebounding margin. Oklahoma outrebounded Arkansas 42-23, holding the Razorbacks to just seven rebounds after halftime. The Sooners had 22 second-chance points on 18 offensive rebounds.

Arkansas continued to be short-handed in the frontcourt. Preseason all-SEC forward Marshawn Powell was limited, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds in just 12 minutes as he continues to recover from a preseason foot injury. Michael Sanchez missed his fifth game of the year with a foot injury of his own.

“Right now we’ve got two of our better front court players that aren’t healthy,” Pelphrey said. “We aren’t going to make any excuses, though. We’re going to make the best of what we’ve got and go out there with it.

“Rebounding is something we’re struggling with. When somebody is leading us with six rebounds, it’s not good.”

Free throw shooting helped Arkansas keep the Sooners at a distance, however. The Razorbacks hit 23 of 26 charity tosses on the night.

An estimated 10,047 attended the game. It was the largest crowd this season at Bud Walton Arena.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Arkansas-Oklahoma Tonight

The Razorbacks take on Oklahoma at 7 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena
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Pelphrey Must Overcome Fan Apathy In Fayetteville

Calling into talk radio shows won’t get it done.  Writing nasty things on messageboards won’t get it done, either.  Ditto spreading ugly lies and rumors.

No, if you want to force a coaching change at your school just stop going to games.  Nothing impacts a school’s decision-making like fan apathy.  Fan apathy hits a school right in the bottom line.

With that in mind, John Pelphrey is facing an uphill battle at Arkansas.  Once a basketball-crazy fanbase, now Razorback fans reserve their hog hats for football games.  Through their first two games this season, Pelphrey’s team has drawn just 6,000 fans per game. 

Matt Jones of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette puts that in perspective: “By comparison, the Arkansas baseball team drew an average of 5,400 in its first two games of last year.”  Not good. 

Jones discusses the issues that might be playing a role in Arkansas’ attendance woes right here.  There are many. 

Now maybe some wins will generate more fan interest.  Maybe a toughening schedule will help.  And football won’t last much longer, either.

But for Pelphrey, all those empty seats are something to pay attention to.  Next year he has one of the nation’s top recruiting classes coming to Fayetteville.  Question is: How many fans will be at Bud Walton Arena to greet them?

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Second in three days

The Razorback men's basketball team takes on Southeast Missouri State at Bud Walton Arena tonight at 7 p.m.
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Taking a Closer Look at Attendance

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

FAYETTEVILLE - As we mentioned last night, the crowds for Arkansas’ basketball games have been dreadful early on this season.

The Razorbacks have averaged just more than 6,000 fans in their first two games, easily the worst numbers ever to begin the year at Bud Walton Arena. Monday’s attendance was the second lowest recorded in the arena’s history. By comparison, the Arkansas baseball team drew an average of 5,400 in its first two games of last year.

So where does the blame fall?

It obviously begins with the product on the floor, where the Razorbacks have endured back-to-back losing seasons. But it shouldn’t end there.

A big part of any revenue producing sport is the preseason buzz, of which there was little to none for the men’s basketball program this year. Midnight Madness was once a staple of Arkansas’ program, but that hasn’t happened in years. Instead, the Razorbacks first practice happens early in the evening behind closed doors.

The Red-White game was also once a big draw. Now the “game” is really a 20-minute scrimmage with a running clock. In recent years, coaches have had to suit up in order to field rosters because of the large number of suspensions and injuries.

Accessibility to a weak schedule doesn’t help either. Arkansas plays one weekend nonconference game at Bud Walton Arena this season – against Troy.

The Razorbacks will play nine nonconference games on weeknights and will play one of its home games at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena this Friday. The most appealing game – against Oklahoma – falls on a Wednesday.

When students break for Christmas, the Razorbacks will stay behind to play Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern, North Carolina A&T and Texas-Arlington, likely to a mostly empty arena.

And in this economy ticket prices are certainly a factor. Tickets for nonconference games against Florida Gulf Coast and Southeast Missouri State cost the same as conference dates against Kentucky and Tennessee. In football, nonconference games are cheaper at home than SEC contests.

One can’t help but to think back to a few years ago when the Razorbacks football team was coming off back-to-back losing seasons. Arkansas opened the 2006 campaign to excitement generated in the preseason with a top recruiting class, spring game televised on national TV and season opener against Southern Cal in Fayetteville. The stadium attendance record was set that night and didn’t fall until this year.

There wasn’t much expected of that team, which ended up winning the SEC West. But hope and optimism was abound before the year, as is often the case in most sports.

That once was the case with Arkansas basketball, but instead apathy has taken precedence with most now. Several have already written off this season just two games in, electing to turn their focus to a top-flight recruiting class that will arrive on campus next summer. Those young men will come with high hopes and higher expectations.

Once football ends and basketball becomes the only game in town, we’ll likely see a few more fill the seats and there might even be a sellout or two before it’s all said and done. Until then, we’re left with thoughts of what could be and memories of what once was.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Tennessee State live blog at Walton

The New Media team brings you coverage from Bud Walton Arena for women's basketball.
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Small Turnout for Opener

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas won its basketball season opener last night over Grambling State, but the crowd wouldn’t have even come close to filling up the old Barnhill Arena.

An announced crowd of 6,404 fans showed up for the 75-52 win – the third smallest crowd in Bud Walton Arena history. Attendance has steadily dropped for Razorbacks basketball in recent years and Arkansas is coming off back-to-back losing seasons. But to see only a quarter of the seats occupied for the season opener still came as a bit of a shock.

Bud Walton Arena has a listed capacity of 19,200 and is one of the five largest on-campus home venues in the country.

Arkansas ranked in the top 15 nationally of home attendance for the first 16 years of the building, but dropped to 25th last season with an average attendance of 13,182 per game.

For more visit WholeHogSports.com. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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Clarke Leads Hogs to Opening Win

Arkansas
Content provided by The Slophouse.

FAYETTEVILLE - Rotnei Clarke scored a game-high 20 points to lift Arkansas past Grambling State 75-52 Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena.

A year after hitting 13 three-pointers in a school-record 51-point effort in the season opener, Clarke drained five baskets from beyond the arc against the Tigers. The Razorbacks won their 16th consecutive season opener.

Arkansas jumped to a 15-3 lead and never trailed. That lead was 42-22 at halftime and grew to as many as 26 points during the second half.

Twelve different players logged playing time for the Razorbacks. Clarke was the only player to score in double-figures. Six others scored seven points apiece.

This story will be updated. You can follow Matt Jones on Twitter @NWAMatt.

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