Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Alabama shows it can hoop, too
Alabama head coach Nate Oats reacts, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, during the second half of the Crimson Tide’s 84-69 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Alabama is and always will be a football school.
One of the best in the country, second-best in the SEC the past two years behind the national champion Georgia Bulldogs.
However, the Crimson Tide men’s basketball team that rolled into Walton Arena on Wednesday night looked like the crowned kings of Tuscaloosa.
The University of Arkansas, which obviously is struggling to shoot more than 4 feet from the basket, came out and gave a solid effort, pulling to within 65-63 with 4:55 to play only to see the Tide roll down the stretch in a full steam, all-out charge.
They made 3 three-pointers in 49 seconds and a loud proud crowd, which never quit pulling for the home team, knew the better team had positioned itself to win.
The 84-69 final score sounds more lopsided than it was for the first 35 minutes, but after making only 2 of 10 three-pointers in the first half, Alabama lit it up in the second half, hitting 7 of 10 threes and 15 of 28 shots.
The Tide’s defense was good as well, forcing 15 turnovers and converting them into 24 points. That’s usually a strong point for the Razorbacks, but all they got was seven points from 13 turnovers because Alabama gets back on defense as well as any team in the country.
Arkansas had four fast-break points to Bama’s 24.
The Razorbacks’ overall shooting was decent, as they made 26 of 61 attempts. But they were 2 of 10 behind the arc, and three-point shooting is a big part of college basketball.
All total, the Hogs had 40 points in the paint, 15 from free throws and 14 off other shots.
It was Alabama’s fifth win over a ranked team this season, and it also wore out an unranked Kentucky team at Rupp Arena.
Twice this season the Tide have beaten teams ranked No. 1, first North Carolina and then Houston, which has regained the top spot.
They have also knocked off No. 12 Michigan State, No. 21 Mississippi State and now No. 15 Arkansas.
At times, the Razorbacks looked like were up for the challenge. But every time they got close, Alabama answered.
No doubt the Hogs are missing Nick Smith, who is out at least until February, maybe longer, as he takes care of a knee injury, and they lost talented Trevon Brazile for the season to a knee injury.
There is no need for Razorback fans to panic.
For sure, Eric Musselman is not.
The Hogs are 1-3 in SEC play. Last season they started 1-3 in league play, and the year before that 2-2. The past two seasons ended in the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Musselman is dealing with the loss of Brazile for the season and Smith for now, and he’s doing it his way.
It was obvious Wednesday night that true freshman Anthony Black is trying to get more involved in the offense and he will, but right now all the new players are adjusting to playing in a league where strength and speed go hand in hand.
The pace is unlike anything they have ever experienced.
Arkansas did a great job on Alabama’s freshman phenom Brandon Miller. Devo Davis held him scoreless in the first half and to just four shots in the second half, but he made three, including two of those three-pointers that put the Hogs behind the 8-ball.
Davis also scored 16 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had 3 assists.
The Razorbacks got 31 points from their bench and needed them all as the starters were 14 of 41 from the floor.
Wednesday night was an up close and personal look at where the Razorbacks need to improve. With Musselman, it is always a learning experience.
Alabama is a football school with an outstanding basketball team.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.