Tuesday night’s Texas game was the most enjoyable Razorback basketball game I’ve attended since around this time last year. The Hogs played with a lot of heart. And Texas played like a team that planned all along to escape Bud Walton with a 10-point win.
The Longhorns were taller, smoother, longer, there were more of them than us, and they played totally under control the entire game. Texas center Dexter Pittman and forward Damion James were men among boys.
James had 20 points in 17 minutes, and seemed to be able to score whenever he wanted. He was easily the best player I’ve seen in person since watching Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 Final Four.
Of course, Tuesday mid-afternoon also brought the news that Courtney Fortson was finally released from banishment into purgatory. But wasn’t it just on Monday that John Pelphrey sounded somewhat pitiful regarding Fortson’s return?
Pelphrey was asked if he was confident Fortson would return at all this year during today’s press conference. His answer didn’t sound, well, very confident.
“I don’t know how to answer that,” Pelphrey said. “I would say he has an opportunity to be back. I think we all would like for him to get back. Probably a little surprised that we’re here so I can’t really say anything with 100 percent confidence. I wished I could. But that probably wouldn’t be a very intelligent thing to say that I’m confident one way or the other.”
In other words: “This is out of my hands and it’s getting old…but I have to keep my mouth shut.”
It seems that with Texas coming to town — and the possibility of being embarrassed again on ESPN (think Baylor) hovering like an Eastern Arkansas funnel cloud on the path between Heber Springs and Jonesboro — whatever sins Fortson had committed could finally be forgiven.
Chris Bahn’s post-game column headline said, “Fortson’s Return Guarantees Nothing, But Provides Hope.” Actually, though, I think Fortson’s return does “guarantee” something.
Coach Pelphrey now has ‘his team’ on the floor. It is guaranteed that the fans expectations (a.k.a. “hope”) will increase dramatically. It is also guaranteed that the pressure on Pelphrey during the SEC season for wins will be even more intense because of those expectations.
Fortson’s return did bring a lot of energy to this team. The question now…can the Hogs bring that type of energy into the conference schedule? After wonderful wins over Texas and Oklahoma last year, the Razorbacks lost momentum immediately when the SEC season started.
And with a tough first half conference schedule facing them starting a week from today, the next several games look rocky.