By Robbie Neiswanger
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Mardracus Wade said the biggest problem in the overtime loss at Texas A&M was evident. The Razorbacks backcourt — dubbed the strength of the team this season — had some unexplainable problems with the basketball.
Arkansas committed 24 turnovers, a season-high, to be exact. Starting point guard Jeff Peterson was responsible for six of them. Rickey Scott, Julysses Nobles and Rotnei Clarke had three apiece.
"It’s a major correction we have to make," Wade said Monday. "We talked about that during film. We had too many turnovers. ... Our guards, we’re overhandling the ball a little bit and it’s not just those guys. It’s some of the big men, too."
Arkansas (7-2) will try to cure itself of the turnover problems when it returns to the court to play Texas Southern (2-7) in Bud Walton Arena tonight at 7. The Razorbacks are coming off their second loss after falling to the No. 25 Aggies 71-62 in a game Arkansas led by 10 points after halftime.
Turnovers played a big role in Texas A&M’s ability to come from behind to force overtime. Then the Aggies frustrated Arkansas in overtime once again.
"We can’t make those types of mistakes to beat a team that’s ranked," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "It wasn’t one play, it was a culmination of things that if we had done a little bit better would have put us in a little bit better position.
"But turnovers jump out at the page at me."
Arkansas entered the Texas A&M gave averaging 13.1 turnovers a game. Its previous high was 21, which occurred in the win against Florida Gulf Coast.
Protecting the basketball had been one of the teams strengths until running into the Aggies. In fact, Arkansas had done a good job of forcing them on the other end with an aggressive and improving defense.
But starting with Peterson’s rough outing, the Razorbacks were the ones struggling last Saturday.
Wade doesn’t think Peterson’s problems will last.
"He’s not going to lose confidence," Wade said. "But I think it is still a learning process for him because playing at Iowa is more of a slow-down offense. Run it to perfection. Here we’re more running, getting up and down quick. So I think he’s still trying to get used to the pace of the game."
Pelphrey said turnovers certainly wasn’t the only issue for the Razorbacks in the loss.
Arkansas also had trouble feeding the ball inside to center Delvon Johnson, who only managed two shots against Texas A&M. Forward Marshawn Powell, who got his first start, was limited to 10 minutes because of foul trouble. Arkansas missed 12 free throws. And the offense was stagnant in critical stretches in the loss, managing only two points in overtime.
"There were some plays we could very easily eliminate," Pelphrey said. "Hopefully we will be better organized, better prepared or whatever the case may be, and get at it a little bit harder."
Arkansas insists it will need every improvement against Texas Southern, even though the Tigers are 2-7. But the Southwestern Athletic Conference team – which knocked off Oregon State in November — didn’t have its full roster available until recently.
The Tigers boast of one of the biggest lineups the Razorbacks have faced. It includes 6-foot-7 point guard Kevin Galloway, who played at both Southern Cal (2006-07) and Kentucky (2008-09) in his winding collegiate career. Senior forward Travele Jones, who has played in only two games, is averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds and should present a challenge, too.
It’s the final game before Arkansas takes a week-long break for Christmas. But Wade said the Razorbacks can’t take Texas Southern lightly, understanding they can’t afford many mistakes.
"We talked about it (Monday)," Wade said. "We want to finish off with a ‘W.’ We want to come in and play hard. I don’t think we’re going to have any distractions. We should be able to capitalize on this win (tonight) and everybody go home safely."