"I think it's just a testament to how much we've grown, how strong we are," Steele said. "We've been faced with different kinds of adversity all year, but throughout it all, I think we've stayed strong." The Tide is part of a three-way tie for the No. 4 seed in the SEC tournament that means a first-round bye. LSU and Tennessee also have 7-6 records followed by Alabama's Saturday opponent, 6-7 Mississippi State.
Alabama keeps finding ways to keep itself in the NCAA tournament picture, suspensions or no suspensions. Rodney Cooper scored 17 points Thursday night as depleted Crimson Tide held on for a 79-68 win at Arkansas. The win is the second straight for the Crimson Tide, which played without leading scorers JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell for the fourth straight game due to suspensions. Alabama (18-9, 7-6 Southeastern Conference) trailed 39-35 late in the first half before going on a 19-2 run to go up 54-41. It then was able to fight off a late run by the Razorbacks. Andrew Steele scored 15 points for the Crimson Tide, while Nick Jacobs and Trevor Releford had 14 each.
Arkansas appeared as though it was ready to take advantage of the missing Alabama pieces early, taking a 33-21 lead after Julysses Nobles' second 3-pointer of the half. The Razorbacks opened the game by hitting their first six 3-pointers, including 3 of 3 by Young, and were 8 of 11 from behind the arc in the first half. The freshman, who scored a career-high 31 points in Arkansas' season-worst 98-68 loss to Florida the last time out, hit his first four shots against the Crimson Tide and scored 17 points in the first half. However, after Young's fourth 3-pointer of the half put the Razorbacks up 37-31, Arkansas went 9:13 without a field goal. Alabama was more than ready to pounce. The Crimson Tide trailed 39-35 before closing the half on a 10-2 run. It then opened the second half on a 9-0 run, capped by a drive and basket by Cooper -- who finished in double figures for only the third time this season.
The University of Alabama basketball team, patched in more patterns and stitched in more places than a grandmother's quilt, found a way not to wind up tattered on Thursday night nonetheless. The Crimson Tide erased a 12-point first half deficit and held on down the stretch in a 79-68 win over Arkansas that put UA above .500 (7-6) in SEC play and - while it secures nothing - puts a road win on a possible NCAA resume at the right time of year. "I'm very proud of our team," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "We fought through some adversity in the first half and we were able to hold off some runs in the second half."
Arkansas (17-11, 5-8 SEC) started the game on fire, hitting 6-of-6 from beyond the three-point arc in the first ten minutes of the game. However, Alabama went on a 24-8 run to end the half, and took a 45-41 lead into the locker room. Arkansas' 41 first-half points were the most points given up by Alabama in a half all season, while the 45 points scored by Alabama were the second most in a half for the Tide this season.
There's still time, I suppose, for these Razorbacks to pull out of their nosedive and re-secure the NIT bid that one has to assume has now slipped from their fingers. But I don't really see it happening. Believe me, I would love to be proven wrong. These guys have worked hard, and until recently, had performed much better than probably most of us would have predicted after Marshawn Powell's injury (and maybe even before it). But their lack of depth and size has exerted its gravitational pull. They looked exhausted. The lack of a consistent offensive force to complement B.J. Young isn't helping either. Yes, these Hogs have come crashing back to Earth. I don't think they'll be taking flight again until next fall at the earliest.
The No. 2 ranked Alabama softball team opens the home portion of the 2012 schedule by hosting the Easton Bama Bash Presented by Drash at Rhoads Stadium. The Crimson Tide will open tournament play with a doubleheader on Friday, Feb. 24, against East Carolina at 4 p.m., and North Dakota State at 6 p.m. On Saturday, UA will face off against East Carolina at 1:30 p.m., and NDSU at 4 p.m. Alabama will close tournament play on Sunday against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville at 1:30 p.m. The tournament will begin at 11 a.m., with NDSU slated to face SIUE.
Alabama draws the largest crowds in college gymnastics. LSU possibly draws the most hostile crowds. "I remember a couple years ago I had to go up in the stands and ask some students to please calm down," Alabama coach Sarah Patterson said. Was that two years ago, when Alabama lost 196.475 to 196.050 at Baton Rouge, La.? "It's been every time we've gone," Patterson said. "So we'll prepare our ladies for it. There will be people screaming at them when they're on the balance beam at the end."