By ROBBIE NEISWANGER
Arkansas News Bureau
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach John Pelphrey has said several times his team needs offense from its defense.
Steals, fast breaks and points off turnovers are all critical for Arkansas’ guard-heavy roster. Harrassing opponents with pressure, leaning on quickness and wearing them down will all lead to chances for baskets.
But what happens if Arkansas isn’t creating as many scoring opportunities with its defense? Then the Razorbacks must produce with their halfcourt offense, something that didn’t happen in the 70-65 overtime loss to Alabama-Birmingham in North Little Rock last Friday.
Arkansas struggled to score, shooting a season-low 37.9 percent. It included a 3-for-21 performance from behind the 3-point line. The Razorbacks (3-1) are hoping to correct the problems when they return to the court to play Oklahoma (3-3) in Bud Walton Arena tonight at 7.
"We had a hard time scoring and need to operate better," Pelphrey said. "We were able to get on the break quite a bit there at times. But in the overtime we missed some easy opportunities and a number of free throws."
Arkansas started slow — shooting 33.3 percent in the first half. They showed flashes of improvement in the second half, but struggled in overtime.
It wasn’t a great offensive performance. But guard Julysses Nobles said Arkansas isn’t concerned.
"Everybody is going to have their off nights," Nobles said. "We’re a better shooting team than we showed. We’ve just got to keep working. It will get fixed."
Pelphrey said part of the problem is the health status of forward Marshawn Powell, who played 25 minutes on his sore foot last Friday. Powell was 3-for-11 in the game, but is expected to be a bigger part of the halfcourt offense when he is completely healthy again.
Leading scorer Rotnei Clarke also struggled, finishing 4 of 11 from the field with a season-low 10 points. He made 2 of 9 from behind the 3-point line.
The good news: the Razorbacks did get an impressive performance from center Delvon Johnson, who scored 18 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Point guard Jeff Peterson, who had been slowed by a hamstring injury earlier this season, added 13 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
"We are still trying to find ourselves a little bit with Marshawn having limited playing time and (Michael) Sanchez out," Pelphrey said. "We like what Delvon is doing and it’s good to see Jeff getting in there to be a part of it. We just have to have some of these other guys continue to grow and help us score."
The Razorbacks will need the help against Oklahoma, which enters tonight’s game with a three-game losing streak. Oklahoma’s three losses came in the Maui Invitational to Kentucky, Virginia and Chaminade.
It’s a far cry from the team that came to Bud Walton Arena ranked fourth in the nation with future No. 1 NBA draft pick Blake Griffin in the post in 2008. But Arkansas, which won that game 96-88, is hoping to pick up a similar result against the new-look Sooners.
Of course, the Razorbacks’ will have to find a way to score more points than it did against UAB. Whether it comes from its defensive pressure and fast break or by simply making more shots out of its halfcourt offense.
"We’re going to have our ups and downs," Nobles said. "We’ve just got to stay together and keep working hard."