Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
So close at Coleman
Hogs stay in it until last shot
Alabama guard Trevor Lacey (5) takes a leaping shot during an NCAA college basketball game against Arkansas, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama won 59-56. (AP Photo/Alabama Media Group, Vasha Hunt)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Arkansas had a shot at the buzzer to tie Alabama, but BJ Young’s three-pointer slipped off his fingers and went wide, and the Razorbacks remained on the wrong side of a road result yet again.
Alabama, which did not score a basket in the final 3:53, hit 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch to hold off the Razorbacks 59-56 on Thursday at Coleman Coliseum.
The Crimson Tide (13-7, 5-2 SEC) stayed unbeaten in four SEC home games and pulled into a tie for third place in the conference with Kentucky. Arkansas (12-8, 3-4) lost its sixth game in a row at Coleman Coliseum and its fifth road game of the year, including all four in SEC play.
RECORDS Arkansas 12-8, 3-4 SEC; Alabama 13-7, 5-2.
STARS Alabama’s Trevor Lacey had 14 points and Trevor Releford had 12 points. Arkansas guard BJ Young scored 14 points and forward Marshawn Powell had 11.
TURNING POINT Alabama made six consecutive free throws in a span of 1:11 to turn a 52-50 deficit into a 56-52 lead.
KEY STAT Alabama won the rebounding battle 38-29 and had 16 offensive rebounds.
UP NEXT Arkansas hosts Tennessee at 3 p.m. Saturday in a game televised by ESPN.
“I told our guys, I love the effort and they didn’t lose it, we just ran out of time,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “Alabama did a good job of making those free throws down the stretch.”
Alabama out rebounded the Razorbacks 38-29, and had 16 offensive rebounds. The biggest of the Crimson Tide’s offensive rebounds came after Andrew Steele missed a three-pointer near the end of the shot clock with about 18 seconds left and Alabama ahead 56-54.
Two Razorbacks seemed in position to grab the rebound, but the ball squirted free, Alabama’s Trevor Lacey retrieved it, and Arkansas’ Marshawn Powell committed his fifth foul in the scramble.
“I thought we did a much better job down the stretch of fighting for rebounds and coming up with those loose balls,” Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said.
The Razorbacks did not shoot well, hitting 21 of 55 shots (38.2 percent), but the Crimson Tide did not fare much better, making 19 of 46 shots (41.3).
Down by three points after inbounding with 16.7 seconds left, Arkansas’ Young drove for a dunk with 4.7 seconds left to pull the Hogs within 57-56.
Anderson called it the right play but said “it should have happened quicker.”
The Razorbacks called timeout and tried for a steal on the inbound pass, but Kikko Haydar was forced to foul Levi Randolph, who made both free throws with 4.2 seconds left.
Young’s three-point try from about 21 feet on the right wing did not have a chance as the buzzer sounded.
“It just kind of slipped out of my hands as it was going up,” Young said. “As I put it behind my back and let it go, the ball slipped off my fingers. It did that quite a bit throughout the game.”
Arkansas, the SEC leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, had nine assists and committed 15 turnovers. The Razorbacks made 3 of 19 three-pointers (15.8 percent) to continue a disturbing trend in that department.
Arkansas’ last lead came at 52-50 on two Coty Clarke free throws with 3:36 remaining, but the Hogs got sloppy with the ball for a brief spell after that and it proved costly.
Alabama pulled even at 52-52 on Lacey’s two free throws, then Powell threw away a pass against the press and the Crimson Tide regained the lead on Trevor Releford’s two free throws. Inbounding after a timeout moments later, Arkansas lost focus on the shot clock and committed a turnover at the 2:23 mark as the clock expired. Nick Jacobs put Alabama ahead 56-52 with two free throws at the 2:00 mark.
Mardracus Wade missed two free throws for Arkansas at the 1:50 mark, but he helped make up for it with a steal that led to Rickey Scott’s layup with 50 seconds remaining as the Razorbacks pulled within 56-54.
Young scored 14 points to lead the Razorbacks, while Powell added 11 points.
Lacey had 14 points to lead Alabama, while Releford had 12 points and Jacobs had 10.
The teams traded the lead five times down the stretch, and there were two ties. The Razorbacks’ defensive intensity kept Alabama from getting comfortable in its half court offense, but the Crimson Tide’s steady work on the offensive boards allowed them to stay in the hunt.
“It’s great, knowing that we can execute at the end, knowing that we didn’t finish them off when we had a lead and step up and make plays at the end,” Lacey said.
Arkansas outscored Alabama 13-3 early in the second half to take a 38-37 lead at the 12:33 mark on two free throws by Hunter Mickelson. It was Arkansas’ first lead since 12:50 of the first half.
Freshman Michael Qualls hit a three-pointer during that stretch, and Arkansas pressure led to turnovers and three ayups from Scott and Young.
Moments later, Young passed to Mickelson on a cut through the lane for a layup, then Young added two free throws to give the Razorbacks a 42-39 lead.
Alabama scored six consecutive points on baskets inside from Lacey, Releford and Devonta Pollard to go back ahead 45-42 as the lead swayed back and forth.
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/01/2013