By Robbie Neiswanger
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETEVILLE — Arkansas coach John Pelphrey and the Razorbacks have a busy Thanksgiving planned.
The team will take part in community service in the morning. They’ll practice in the early afternoon, then enjoy Thanksgiving dinner at Pelphrey’s house after they leave the court.
But Arkansas’ players might want to make sure they’re not hungry when practice begins after their performance on the boards in a 66-56 win against Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday night. Because it might take awhile.
"After we get done blocking out for several hours, we’ll come to my house and have Thanksgiving dinner," Pelphrey said, drawing a round of laughter in the interview room.
The Razorbacks, who were playing without two of their injured post players, were awful on the boards throughout their sluggish win in front of an announced crowd of 5,334 in Bud Walton Arena.
The Redhawks outrebounded Arkansas 46-35. They grabbed 22 offensive rebounds and converted them into 21 second-chance points in a losing effort.
But the work on the glass helped Southeast Missouri State hang around throughout the entire game, surprising almost everyone in the building.
The 10-point win was Arkansas’ smallest margin of victory. Southeast Missouri (0-5) had lost to Grambling State and Florida Gulf Coast, the Razorbacks’ previous two opponents.
"Their second chance points were huge," said Arkansas guard Rotnei Clarke, who finished with a game-high 19 points on 6 of 8 shooting. "They were working hard on the glass and got a lot of offensive rebounds. It really killed us."
It didn’t help Arkansas (3-0) was playing without two post players for the second straight game.
Marshawn Powell joined Michael Sanchez, who is out for six weeks, on the bench for the second straight game. His absence didn’t hurt Arkansas in Monday’s win against Florida Gulf Coast, but proved to be a pain on a night in which Delvon Johnson and Glenn Bryant battled foul trouble.
Pelphrey said there were no excuses, though.
"We’ve got to compete better for rebounds," Pelphrey said.
Two sequences summed up Arkansas’ trouble on the glass in the first half Wednesday night.
Midway through the half, Southeast Missouri State scored off putbacks on three straight possessions to stay within two points of Arkansas. A little later, guard Lucas Nutt knocked down a 3-pointer to cap a possession in which the Redhawks got four shot attempts thanks to offensive rebounds.
"That’s obviously not what we’re about," Clarke said about the rebound. "That’s very frustrating."
But Southeast Missouri State coach Dickey Nutt, who is the younger brother of Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt, applauded his team’s effort.
The Redhawks — who were led by Leon Powell’s 12 points and 7 rebounds — were missing two injured players and dressed nine guys Wednesday night.
"I just thought we really had a lot of hustle plays," Nutt said. "Our rebounding was very average and when I say average I mean balanced.
"That kept us in the game."
The rebounding woes weren’t the only things ailing the Razorbacks on Wednesday night.
Arkansas also struggled on offense throughout the night, shooting 35.5 percent in the first half and 40.4 percent in the game. Pelphrey also pointed to the 21 personal fouls, which forced him to play with four guards at times Wednesday.
Arkansas did force Southeast Missouri State into 23 turnovers, converted them to 23 points and blocked 10 shots. But the Razorbacks struggled to put together lengthy runs to distance themselves.
Arkansas’ largest lead was 15 points.
"I think we did get in little spurts to where it looked like we could get out on a run," Clarke said. "They did a good job of minimizing that."
Clarke led the Razorbacks in scoring for the third straight game, but was frustrated about three missed free throws that kept things interesting late. Point guard Julysses Nobles added 13 points and five assists, while Johnson scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds.
Arkansas did improve to 3-0 for the first time since 2006-07, but faces its first test against UAB (3-1) in North Little Rock on Friday night.
The Razorbacks know they must improve on the glass if they plan to win their fourth straight.
"You can’t blow everybody out," Johnson said. "So we have to go to practice (today) and work on things. We’ll be all right."