LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Here's one sign things are turning around at Arkansas: Coach John Pelphrey is suddenly concerned about complacency.
"We've had to deal with adversity. Success is a completely different animal," Pelphrey said. "It's human nature to become soft."
The Razorbacks have been anything but soft lately. After losing by 31 points at Kentucky two weekends ago, Arkansas bounced back with three consecutive wins, rallying from halftime deficits in each game. The latest victory might have been the most impressive. The Hogs trailed by 15 after the first half before storming back to win at Georgia on Wednesday night.
"How we've sort of united together and turned things around, I think that shows a lot about our coaching staff and a lot about our players," guard Rotnei Clarke said.
Next up is Saturday's home game against Auburn, which comes to Fayetteville a year after beating the Hogs there 73-51 — the Razorbacks' most lopsided loss in Bud Walton Arena since they started playing there in 1993.
The Razorbacks won only two Southeastern Conference games in 2008-09, and it appeared that might be the least of their problems when three players were accused of raping a university freshman in August. But local authorities declined to charge the players, and a special prosecutor backed up that decision Friday, saying there wasn't enough evidence for charges.
Meanwhile, after starting the season without several suspended players, Arkansas has slowly welcomed them back into the fold. There haven't been any off-court problems recently, and point guard Courtney Fortson has been a catalyst since returning from suspension just before the start of the SEC season.
"We have a few more pieces right now, which makes us a better team," Pelphrey said. "If somebody's not performing at the usual level ... somebody else is able to step in there."
Fortson has averaged 19.8 points per game since coming back, and his aggressiveness has been infectious. He's already attempted 68 free throws in eight games.
Fortson scored 33 of his 35 points in the second half of a 67-62 win over Mississippi State. That game took place in front of a small home crowd during a winter storm. Little did anyone realize how the Razorbacks would build on it.
They then beat Mississippi 80-73, snapping a 15-game road losing streak in SEC play. Against Georgia, they were down 37-22 at halftime before coming back for a 72-68 victory.
Clarke, who scored 51 points in the team's season opener in November, was held to two against Georgia, but Arkansas had enough other contributors to win. Fortson scored 27 points, and center Mike Washington added 15.
"My job's not always to score or make 3s," Clarke said. "We can use me as a decoy sometimes."
Arkansas (11-11, 4-3) is suddenly tied for first in the muddled SEC West, although the damage might already be done as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned. According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Razorbacks were still No. 112 in the country Friday — and their nonconference losses to Morgan State and East Tennessee State aren't likely to impress the selection committee.
Still, any improvement is welcome in Fayetteville after a rough start to Pelphrey's third season at the helm. Auburn (11-11, 2-5) and LSU (9-13, 0-8) are Arkansas' next two opponents and both games are at home. It's not a stretch to see the Razorbacks staying atop the division a little while longer.
Of course, that's exactly the type of talk that has Pelphrey worried. Sure, the Razorbacks are winning again — but not by much.
"They could go either way. We know that," Pelphrey said. "The margin of error for winning and losing is very small."