Free Throws Help Tide Beat Arkansas

Arkansas may not be 40 minutes of hell, and the Razorbacks would have a hard time justifying its latest claim of "fastest 40 minutes in basketball." That's because in attempting to play intimidating defense, the Hogs committed 23 fouls. It made the game last over two hours, and free throws were the difference in an Alabama win.



Alabama scored nine free throws in the final 3:11 of the game, including two by Levi Randolph in the final five seconds, and outscored Arkansas by seven points from the free throw line in taking a 59-56 win in Coleman Coliseum Thursday night.

The Crimson Tide improved to 13-7 overall and 5-2 in Southeastern Conference play. The Razorbacks fell to 12-8 overall and 3-4 in the league.

Although Arkansas scored two more field goals, Alabama made 18-25 free throws and the Razorbacks only 11-14, which proved to be the difference.

Alabama is on the road for its next two games, at Vanderbilt Saturday and at Auburn nxt Wednesday. The Tide returns to Tuscaloosa on February 9 against LSU.

Although Trevor Lacey did not have his best game, he made a couple of key steals and rebounds and scored 14 points. Lacey hit only 4-11 from the field and only 1-6 on three-point shots, but made 5-6 free throws, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals. He also had seven turnovers, however, one-third of Bama's uncharacteristic 21 turnovers.

Although Arkansas may live on its long-ago reputation for a defense that forces turnovers, too many of Bama's miscues were unforced (or barely forced) errors. In the first half Bama had 10 turnovers, but had surrendered only 5 points off them. In the second half Bama had 11 turnovers and Arkansas turned those into 15 points, nearly enough to pull off the victory.

Trevor Releford had 12 points and Nick Jacobs came off the bench for 10 points, including two of the key free throws down the stretch.

Arkansas was led by B.J. Young with 14 points and Marshawn Powell, who had 11 before he fouled out with 17 seconds to play.

Alabama made 19-46 field goals for 41.3 per cent (the Tide had been 12-23 for 52.2 per cent in the first half), while the Razorbacks made 21-55 for 38.2 per cent. On treys, Bama made 3-11 (27.3 per cent), the Hogs 3-19 (15.8 per cent).

Alabama out-rebounded Arkansas 24-14 in the second half and finished with a 38-29 advantage on the boards. Moussa Gueye had four blocked shots for the Tide.

The Razorbacks had a 30-26 advantage on scoring in the paint, a 20-14 margin in points off turnovers, a 13-7 advantage in second chance points, and a 6-2 margin in fast break points. "I thought this was just about us finding a way to win," said Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. "Our guys stayed the course. Down the stretch we had to make plays. I thought we had guys step up and make plays on both ends of the floor."

The game was tied six times and there were 10 lead changes.

Alabama, which led by as many as 11 points and never trailed by more than three, tied the game at 50-50 with a three-point shot and Lacey tied it for the last time with a pair of free throws. The Tide took the lead for good with just under three minutes to play. Lacey, who had just made the two free throws, made a steal on the press. He got the ball to Releford, who was fouled going across the lane. Releford made two free throws for a 54-52 lead. Bama forced a shot clock violation on the next Arkansas possession and then Jacobs made two free throws for a four-point lead.

The game ended with a desperation three-point shot by the Razorbacks missing badly.

In the first half, Alabama used a combination of an effective press that resulted in 10 Arkansas tunovers that led to nine points, and good shooting (and shot selection) to forge a 30-23 lead at intermission. Bama led by as many as 11 points late in the half. Nick Jacobs came off the bench and had four field goals, two of them on nice drives, to equal Trevor Releford for high point honors. Trevor Lacey had seven points, but had an uncharacteristic five turnovers (half of the Tide's halftime 10).

Arkansas' only lead was a one-point advantage, twice in the first five minutes of the game.

Devonta Pollard had a nice 15-second or so spurt when he blocked a block attempt by Arkansas, then went to the other end and scored on an inbounds play, was fouled, and made the freebie for a 15-9 lead.

TIDE NOTES: The ESPN television commentators were Alabama graduate Rece Davis doing play-by-play and former Indiana coaching legend Bobby Knight.

Alabama's starting lineup had junior center Moussa Gueye surrounded by guards Trevor Releford (junior), and sophomores Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper.

Alabama is now 5-3 this year in games decided by three points or fewer.

Bama has now won four consecutive games against Arkansas and the Tide has won six of the past eight against the Razorbacks. The Hogs have a 28-27 lead in the series.

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