FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — John Pelphrey took a moment to enjoy the on-court celebration after Arkansas' win over Kentucky.
That moment had passed by the time the Razorbacks' coach found his way to the locker room.
In a season full of highs and lows for Arkansas, Wednesday night's 77-76 overtime win over the No. 22 Wildcats topped the list. Now the question is whether the Razorbacks (17-10, 6-7 Southeastern Conference) can carry that momentum into Saturday's game at Auburn.
"There's nothing like the thrill of victory," Pelphrey said. "I probably got over it a little faster than the players, because by the time I got to the locker room, we were already talking about how to handle this and what our next challenge was."
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Arkansas had lost four of five SEC games entering the Kentucky game, including three in a row. That losing streak started with a home loss to Georgia on Feb. 2, a loss that followed the Razorbacks' first conference road win of the season at Vanderbilt.
Inconsistency has been a trademark for Arkansas this season. Arkansas point guard Jeff Peterson was even frustrated after the win over Kentucky, reminded of past games he thinks the Razorbacks should have won.
"Just knowing that we can go out and play a game like we did last night," Peterson said. "It's like, 'Why haven't we been doing that all season?'"
Following a 33-point loss at Texas on Jan. 4, the worst of Pelphrey's Arkansas career, the Razorbacks rebounded with a home win over Tennessee their next time out. They followed that with a disappointing loss at LSU, which is tied for last in the SEC West with Auburn — then a win over Alabama, which has already clinched the division title.
The up-and-down performance has left Pelphrey searching for answers, even after 27 games with the same group of players.
"I think we're constantly trying," Pelphrey said. "To tell you that I've got it figured out would be 'No.' If I knew that, I would bottle that and would have it on a shelf someplace, and I could really do some damage there. I wouldn't need to be coaching anymore."
Next up is Auburn, a team Arkansas defeated at home 73-64 on Jan. 25.
Auburn (9-18, 2-11) missed its first 23 shots of the second half in that game, going more than 11 minutes without a field goal. Arkansas led by as many as 24 points before the Tigers closed to as few as six with less than a minute left.
The Razorbacks are well aware of their 1-5 conference record on the road as they prepare for the rematch.
"That's obviously somewhere we've struggled so far this season," Peterson said. "Hopefully we can grow up and use it as a learning experience and try to mature a little bit and go on into Auburn and play them and at least come out with the same energy we did (against Kentucky)."
Arkansas enters the game tied with Mississippi State for second place in the West. With three regular-season games remaining, including a home game against the Bulldogs, Pelphrey sees a first-round bye at the SEC Tournament as still a possibility.
"I think any time you can string wins together, that's big," Pelphrey said.
Signing off after 58 years
STARKVILLE, Miss. — After nearly six decades, Mississippi State radio broadcaster Jack Cristil will retire as the voice of the Bulldogs.
The 85-year-old announced the decision after LSU beat Mississippi State 84-82 on Wednesday night.
Cristil cited health issues, saying he needed kidney dialysis. Saturday's game against Tennessee will be his last.
"All good things, as they say in the trade, must come to an end sooner or later," Cristil said during Wednesday's postgame show. "Please accept my genuine, my honest and heartfelt thank you for the kindness that you have displayed to me during my 58 years. It has been one genuine pleasure to be associated with such a magnificent university."
He was hired before the 1953 football season.
He added basketball play-by-play duties in 1957 and has broadcast more than 2,000 MSU athletic events during his career — or roughly 60 percent of football games and 55 percent of basketball games in the school's history.
Jim Ellis, who has worked with Cristil since 1979, will take over play-by-play duties for the remainder of the men's basketball season.