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Pelphrey perseveres through losing streak

In his last 24 games as Arkansas coach, John Pelphrey has left the arena a loser 20 times. This year's team is 3-5 after Saturday's 91-54 rout of Mississippi Valley State, which is coached by his former UK teammate Sean Woods.

Hidden inside Pelphrey's record is an ugly three-game home losing streak. If losses to Morgan State, East Tennessee State and South Alabama were not embarrassing enough, the Razorbacks had not lost three straight home games to non-conference opponents since 1955-56.

After Arkansas lost at Oklahoma on Wednesday to extend its losing streak to four games, Pelphrey spoke of perseverance.

"I want to let you know right now, our bolts and our beliefs are strong," he said in the post-game news conference. "They're riveted (those bolts and beliefs) in their heart."

So far, it seems Arkansas administrators don't think they had a screw loose when they hired Pelphrey.

But the fans might be wondering. Only 5,187 attended the South Alabama game.

"It's not fun, it's not pleasant or enjoyable," Pelphrey said after the 74-61 loss to South Alabama. "But we will show back up, and we will play. We will play hard."

There are reasons to be patient.

Pelphrey, 39-33 record going into Saturday's game, suspended five players for disciplinary reasons prior to the season. One is Courtney Fortson, the point guard and team leader. Injuries to the team's top front-line player, Michael Washington, and Michael Sanchez dug the hole a little deeper.

"I just hope the people in Arkansas understand this is an unfortunate situation he needs to get the team though, and that he can coach, and they've got the right guy for the job," said Woods, whose got his own problems (8-32 record in his second season at Mississippi Valley State.)

Pelphrey has not second-guessed the suspensions.

"We felt very good about it when we dealt with all this stuff, and we need to feel good about it now," he said. "I think (losing games) was probably something we thought could happen, but we also thought we could work through it and maybe overachieve.

"We haven't overachieved at this point in time with the circumstances we've been given, and that's what we've got to do."

Pelphrey all but promised success in the future.

"We are trying to handle adversity with the same class and character as we would if we win them all," he said. "That day is coming, too."

Fear/envy

Envy our past. Fear our future.

That's a slogan Kentucky has been using since John Calipari became coach.

Not surprisingly, it has evoked neither envy nor fear among North Carolina supporters.

When asked whether he envied UK's past or feared its future, former Tar Heel center Eric Montross said, "Probably neither."

Then Montross said of UK, "I respect what they stand for."

UNC fan Cliff Alphin suggested the Tar Heels were above such petty concerns.

"A lot of other teams, that might bother," he said. "I don't think anybody with North Carolina would give that a second thought.

"Why would you envy (Kentucky) if you're North Carolina? Are you going to fear Kentucky? Hey, we deal with that every single season with Duke, Wake Forest . . ."

Alphin, 60, saw the fear/envy slogan and the pre-game public address announcement of the greatest program in the history of college basketball as mere promotional ploys.

"Let's face it," he said. "College basketball, unfortunately, is a lot more about dollars and cents now."

Kiffin-esque?

Could UK's envy/fear slogan be a cry for help?

When asked his take on the Kentucky and North Carolina basketball programs, columnist Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote via e-mail, "I'd say the difference between the two is that Kentucky has a slogan that sounds as if Lane Kiffin wrote it, whereas Carolina needs no slogan."

UK-UNC leftovers

Leftovers from a look at UK and UNC basketball:

Chris Cameron, the UK sports information director in the early 1990s when the two powers went back and forth atop the all-time victory list, saw those totals as a flawed measurement of the programs.

"I've never quite understood why people are so hung up on that win total," he said. "To me, the much more relevant stat is winning percentage."

Why?

"North Carolina has played more games than Kentucky has," he said.

Going into this season, Kentucky led the nation with an all-time winning percentage of .758. North Carolina had a winning percentage of .738.

 Cameron, who grew up in Ashland, had a skeptical view of North Carolina.

"The thing that softened me most about North Carolina was that Roy Williams seems like a genuinely good guy."

Cameron noted an incident when his present employer, Boston College, played at UNC a few years ago. On the way to the arena for practice, the team bus hit and killed a cyclist. "Roy Williams came to our practice just to make sure everybody in our travel party was OK," Cameron said.

Cameron said he also heard that when UNC fired John Bunting, Williams went to the football coach's home that evening to lend support.

 In the 1990s, each program found "lost" victories from the past. UNC researcher Dave Lohse expressed confidence that the Tar Heels will not find anymore "lost" victories.

"At our end, it ain't out there," he said.

UK in Louisville

UK Coach John Calipari's call for fans to fill Freedom Hall for last week's game against UNC-Asheville bothered reader Chad Coffey of Crestwood. The empty seats did not reflect fan interest as much as the quality of the opponent, he said. Or lack thereof.

"Put Notre Dame (in Freedom Hall) or schedule someone that my kids couldn't play for, and the crowd will swell," Coffey wrote via e-mail. "Everyone knows that here. Money is tight and, if I'm going to spend money I don't have on a game, it won't be a tune-up game."

Keeping in mind these figures do not include games against Louisville or Indiana in Freedom Hall, here are some attendance numbers to ponder:

 Last week's crowd of 15,368 marked the largest attendance for a UK "home" game in Louisville since the 2001-02 season (16,011 to watch UK and Tulane). But the crowd to watch UK-Asheville would have been the smallest in a period from 1980-81 to 2003-04.

 UK's average attendance in Freedom Hall from 2003-04 to 2009-10 was 12,791. The modest opposition in those games suggests fans want to see marquee opponents.

That wasn't always the case. Games in Louisville against Marshall in 1995-96 (19,795), Austin Peay in 1988-89 (18,178) and VMI in 1985-86 (19,450) drew much larger crowds.

 The track record suggests Calipari's idea of playing a Southeastern Conference game in Louisville would draw well. Alabama in 1997-98 (19,734) and Mississippi in 1993-94 (19,767) featured big crowds.

 UK might try in-state opponents. Morehead State in 1991-92 (17,165) and Western Kentucky in 1990-91 (19,075) drew well.

The ideal solution would be to revive a tradition that expired in the mid-1980s: Playing a name opponent such as Notre Dame or Kansas each season in Freedom Hall. Short of that, Calipari will have to excite the populace as Rick Pitino did in the 1990s when watching Kentucky play was an event.

K vs. Gottlieb

From Ben Cohen's sports blog on The Chronicle:

NEW YORK — At halftime of Duke's win over Arizona State Wednesday, ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb opened by declaring Duke "alarmingly unathletic," right next to former Blue Devil star Jason Williams. Of course, Duke went on to win that game and ... the Blue Devils won the NIT by beating Connecticut.

So when a reporter asked Mike Krzyzewski to respond to Gottlieb's criticism, the Duke head coach responded appropriately.

"He should be an expert on alarmingly non– athletic," Krzyzewski said. "So I'll have to take a look at that a little bit closer because it comes from an expert who actually knows what it feels like to be alarmingly non– athletic.

"Actually, we're pretty athletic — we're just not as athletic as Connecticut. (Kyle) Singler is a really good athlete. Lance (Thomas), Miles (Plumlee). Jon (Scheyer) is not leaping tall buildings with a single bound, but he's a real good athlete. But I wouldn't call us, like, this athletic team, but we're not amazingly non– athletic.

"And I would rather not get into a discussion with Doug because I have respect of his stature, and he should have his arguments with people of similar stature. That would be a good thing."

Cat calls

Former UK players Bobby Perry, J.P. Blevins and Josh Carrier have launched a phone application designed for sports fans in general and UK fans in particular.

Using the application, fans can get voluminous information about their favorite team by hitting a few buttons on their iPhones.

So far, the teams available are UK basketball and football, plus the football teams at Florida, Alabama and Louisiana State.

"Rather than broad-based apps that answer one or two questions about every team in every game, GamedayApps decided to stay narrow and deep, dealing with your favorite team one question at a time," Perry wrote in an e-mail message. "... As a player, it's unbelievable the amount of support that the fans give you while you're playing at UK. It's really cool now to be able to do something of value for the fans and return the favor a little bit."

The information available on the application includes rosters for, say, UK's basketball team and its opponents, TV-radio announcers, weather, directions to the arena, seating charts, betting lines, media coverage, bloggers and tweeters.

"So it's really, really in-depth," Perry said in a follow-up phone call.

The UK team applications already rate among the most popular world-wide.

"It just shows you the power of the Kentucky fan base," Perry said. "They're searching for anything and everything Kentucky at all times."

The service costs $2.99 per year. Information can be found on the iPhone app store or on www.gamedayapp.com.

Lowly Stanford

Coaches typically trumpet the abilities of opponents. So no surprise that UK Coach John Calipari made Stanford sound formidable before and after the Cats' overtime victory in Cancun.

And maybe the Cardinal will do well this season.

But Stanford did finish ninth in the Pacific 10 last season.

And in a media poll this pre-season, Stanford was picked to finish last by a wide margin.

The media picked California (25 first-place votes and 350 points) to finish first followed by Washington (seven first-place votes and 330 points), UCLA (five first-place votes and 302 points), Arizona (221 points), Oregon State (218), Oregon (175), Arizona State (144), Washington State (123), Southern California (109) and Stanford (63).

Miller time

Thankfully, UK Coach John Calipari has stopped referring to Darius Miller playing only eight minutes a game last season. The coach was laying it on a little thick in suggesting how inexperienced UK is. Miller averaged 21.2 minutes (22.4 minutes against SEC teams) last season.

Happy birthday

Or, in this case, Cliff notes.

To Hall of Famer Cliff Hagan. The former UK All-American and Athletics Director turns 78 on Tuesday.

To Cliff Ellis. The former Auburn coach, now in his second season at Coastal Carolina, turned 64 on Saturday.

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