Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
SEC BASKETBALL ALABAMA 83, ARKANSAS 58:
Blacked out in Bama
Arkansas not wired for victory
Alabama guard Trevor Releford (12) gets by Arkansas guard Rashad Madden (00) during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 8, 2014, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/AL.com, Vasha Hunt)
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Arkansas is fortunate its game at Alabama on Saturday wasn’t televised and available only on the internet.
The fewer people who saw the game - especially if they’re on the NCAA Tournament selection committee - the better for the Razorbacks.
Alabama handed the Razorbacks their most-lopsided SEC loss of the season, 83-58, before an announced crowd of 10,961 at Coleman Coliseum.
The Razorbacks (21-10, 10-8) saw their six-game winning streak end with a thud. They hadn’t lost since falling 86-85 at Missouri on Feb. 13.
“They just played harder than us in every aspect of the game,” Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke said. “They had more energy and effort.”
Senior point guard Trevor Releford led Alabama (13-18, 7-11) with 24 points, 4 assists and 3 steals in his final home game. He hit 7 of 12 shots and 7 of 10 free throws. Freshman forward Shannon Hale had 18 points and junior guard Levi Randolph added 11 points.
“When you’re playing in somebody else’s house on Senior Night, your guys have got to withstand that emotional pop early on in the game,and we didn’t do a good job of that,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. “We dug a hole, and we continued to try to go uphill the whole game long and Alabama made the plays they had to make in order to get the win.
“They played like a desperate team.”
The Razorbacks didn’t look anything like the team that beat Ole Miss 110-80 on Wednesday night in Arkansas’ Senior Night game in Walton Arena.
Arkansas matched an SECbest with 17 three-point baskets against Ole Miss and had six turnovers.
The Razorbacks shot a season-low 31.3 percent from the field (15 of 48) on Saturday, including 4 of 23 in the first half. They had 12 firsthalf turnovers and finished with 15.
“As good of a game as we had last game, we had that bad of a game today,” Arkansas senior guard Kikko Haydar said. “We give Alabama a lot of credit, but we had a lot to do with it, too. We didn’t show up.”
The Razorbacks have put themselves in position to play for an NCAA Tournament bid, but winning Saturday would have been an added boost going into the SEC Tournament.
“We just didn’t perform. It’s the game of basketball,” Haydar said. “Sometimes you don’t perform the way you want to, and that’s definitely not what we wanted to do.”
Alabama came into the game ranked 117 in the Ratings Percentage Index - a formula used by the NCAA based on a team’s record and strength of schedule - but the Tide improved to 13-4 at home. The teams to beat Alabama in Coleman Coliseum are No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Wichita State, Tennessee and Xavier.
“We’re a very tough team at home,” Releford said. “Our confidence is always here.”
Alabama outscored Arkansas 29-8 the final 15:10 of the first half, including 11 points by Randolph, to take a 39-16 halftime lead.
The Razorbacks, who didn’t draw closer than 19 points in the second half and trailed by as many as 27, hit 2 of 18 over the final 15 minutes after trailing 10-8.
“They weren’t able to get easy baskets in transition,” Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought that was realkey for us in the first half. We just tried to make them earn what they got.”
The Tide outscored the Razorbacks 18-13 in points off turnovers, a statistic Arkansas usually dominates. The Razorbacks had a 126-76 edge in points off turnovers during their six-game winning streak.
“Our offense is based on our defense,” Haydar said. “If we had played better defense, our offense would have showed it.
“We didn’t show up with energy, we didn’t get a lot of deflections, which is something we pride ourselves on.”
Junior guard Ky Madden led Arkansas with 19 points but had 7 turnovers in 33 minutes. Freshman forward Bobby Portis had 17 points.
The Razorbacks made 9 of 25 three-pointers, but four of those baskets came in thefinal eight minutes after the Tide had pushed its lead to 63-37. Arkansas hit of 2 of 12 three-pointers in the first half.
“Alabama was attacking us, and we were settling for jump shots,” Anderson said. “To me that was the difference in the game.”
The Tide outscored the Razorbacks 42-6 on points in the paint, including several driving baskets by Releford and Randolph.
“We just kept making plays,” Releford said. “We never slowed up and tried to run plays. Coach emphasized that against a team like Arkansas, you can’t call plays.
“You’ve just got to go in transition and make plays. We hit open shots, got putbacks.”
Anderson said after Wednesday’s game against Ole Miss the basket “was like an ocean” for the Razorbacks. Saturday it was more like a shot glass.
“We didn’t make shots early on, and I thought we maybe started pressing a little bit,” Anderson said. “Then I thought our defense really broke down, and they did a good job of taking advantage of it.”
The Razorbacks, No. 52 in the NCAA’s RPI coming into the game, lost at Alabama for the seventh consecutive year and now may need to win some games in the SEC Tournament to boost their NCAA Tournament hopes.
“We don’t talk about the NCAA Tournament,” Haydar said. “Our focus is getting better each and every day.
“Whoever wins the SEC Tournament gets an automatic [NCAA] bid, so that’s our focus.”
Game sketch RECORDS Arkansas 21-10, 10-8 SEC.
Alabama 13-18, 7-11.
STARS Alabama senior guard Trevor Releford (24 points, 4 assists and 3 steals) and freshman forward Shannon Hale (18 points).
TURNING POINT The Crimson Tide outscored the Razorbacks 29-8 over the last 15:10 of the first half to take a 39-16 lead into halftime.
KEY STAT Alabama outscored Arkansas 42-6 on points in the lane.
UP NEXT Arkansas is the No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament and will play Thursday in Atlanta against the winner of Wednesday night’s Auburn-South Carolina game.
ARKANSAS MEN (21-10, 10-8 SEC)
DATE OPPONENT TIME/RESULT
Nov. 8 SIU-Edwardsville W, 99-65
Nov. 15 La.-Lafayette W, 76-63
Nov. 18 SMU W, 89-78
Nov. 25 California# L, 85-77
Nov. 26 Minnesota# W, 87-73
Nov. 27 Gonzaga# L, 91-81
Dec. 3 SE Louisiana W, 111-65
Dec. 7 Clemson W, 74-68
Dec. 12 Savannah St. W, 72-43
Dec. 19 Tennessee-Martin W, 102-56
Dec. 21 South Alabama% W, 72-60
Dec. 28 High Point W, 89-48
Jan. 4 Texas-San Antonio W, 104-71
Jan. 8 at Texas A&M* L, 69-53
Jan. 11 Florida* L, 84-82 (OT)
Jan. 14 Kentucky* W, 87-85 (OT)
Jan. 18 at Georgia* L, 66-61 (OT)
Jan. 22 at Tennessee* L, 81-74
Jan. 25 Auburn* W, 86-67
Jan. 28 Missouri* L, 75-71
Feb. 1 at LSU* L, 88-74
Feb. 5 Alabama* W, 65-58
Feb. 8 at Vanderbilt* W, 77-75
Feb. 13 at Missouri* L, 86-85
Feb. 15 LSU W, 81-70
Feb. 19 South Carolina* W, 71-64
Feb. 22 at Mississippi St.* W, 73-69
Feb. 27 at Kentucky* W, 71-67 (OT)
Mar. 1 Georgia* W, 87-75
Mar. 5 Mississippi* W, 110-80
Mar. 8 at Alabama* L, 83-58
Mar. 12-16 SEC Tournament Atlanta #Maui Invitational %Verizon Arena, North Little Rock *SEC game
Sports, Pages 21 on 03/09/2014