The Alabama Crimson Tide, once again, almost pulled out a much-needed road win, only to fall on a Bobby Portis tip in at the buzzer, in overtime. The Tide battled from behind all night against long odds, and had opportunities but again was left on the outside, looking in.
Arkansas, much like Alabama, is very good at home, and not very good on the road. The win pushed their home record to 11-1 on the season. Alabama is now 6-18 all-time in Fayetteville. Anthony Grant's record against the Hogs fell to 6 wins and 4 losses.
The Tide really had no business being in a position to win the game, after starting out down 7-0 and 13-3 to begin the game. Rodney Cooper then took over for the 'Bama and scored 10 straight points to pull the Tide close. 'Bama even took a short-lived lead, before trailing 34-30 at half time. This despite their two leading scorers (Levi Randolph and Ricky Tarrant) scoring a combined two points in the first stanza. Cooper netted 15 to keep the Tide in the game.
In the second half, the Hogs raced out to a comfortable lead, only to have 'Bama fight back to stay close or tie the game at many junctures. Just as Cooper carried the first half, Justin Coleman and Tarrant carried the second. At one point, the team had 38 points in the half and the point guard duo had combined for 36 of the total. Coleman finished with a career 22 points in 30 minutes of action. Tarrant tallied 21 points in 38 minutes of play.
Every time it looked as if Arkansas had built a comfortable lead, 'Bama staged a rally, much of which was from Coleman knocking down long threes, or Tarrant driving the lane and being fouled. Trailing by three points with the clock winding down, 'Bama couldn't get a good look at a three-point shot and passed inside to Michael Kessens, who scored the basket, and was inexplicably fouled with 2.6 seconds left on the clock. Kessens calmly hit the free throw to tie the game, and then almost made a spectacular steal on the Hogs inbounds play. Arkansas missed a three-quarter shot at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
Just as the first half belonged to Cooper, and the second half to Coleman and Tarrant, the overtime period belonged to Levi Randolph. Randolph scored eight of his 12 points in the extra period. The OT period went back and forth throughout the five minutes of play. When Arkansas missed a free throw, with a one-point lead and 21 seconds left, 'Bama looked to secure the rebound and a chance to win the game. However, freshman Riley Norris grabbed the rebound, collied with a teammate, and couldn't keep his balance, and was called with traveling. The Tide had to foul, and Michael Qualls made both free throws for the Hogs, giving them a 91-88 lead.
The Tide, who by this time had four starters (Taylor, Cooper, Kessens, Randolph) fouled out, worked a play to Shannon Hale who hit a big three-point basket with 8.8 seconds left to tie the score. Arkansas's Rashad Madden wildly drove the lane, and appeared to take about four steps before throwing up an air ball. The Razorbacks Portis was not blocked out and he tipped the miss-in just before the buzzer sounded, giving the Hogs the win, 93-91.
'Bama shot well enough to win, 28-57 (49%), excelled from the three point line 12-24 (50% duh,) and went 23-28 (82%) from the three point line. Arkansas took an amazing 71 shots, making 29 for 40% percent shooting. The Hogs were a dreadful 6-23 (26%) from the three-point line, and 29-41 for 70% from the free throw line. The reason the Hogs were able to get so many shots off was the fact that they out rebounded the Tide 50-31, including an incredible 21 on the offensive glass. The rebounding margin, the free throw discrepancy, 17 turnovers, and having four starters foul out, proved too much for the Tide to overcome on the road.
Coleman's 22 led the Tide, followed by Tarrant with 21, Cooper had 15 and Randolph finished with 12 and led the team with eight rebounds. Kessens had seven points and seven rebounds. Qualls had 30 points and eight rebounds for Arkansas, and Portis had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Rashad Madden had 17 and Anton Beard also reached double digits with 11 points. 'Bama dropped to 12-6 on the season and 2-3 in the SEC, while Arkansas is now 14-4, 3-2 in the SEC. The Tide has lost by one point to Wichita State, and two points to South Carolina and Arkansas on the road this season.
The Tide has a short turnaround as they host bitter rival Auburn Saturday night at 7:30 CST game that will be televised on the SEC Network. The game is sold out and will feature three things. No. 1. it is a "white out" game. No. 2. Tuscaloosa's Deontay Wilder will be honored during the game, after winning the WBC heavyweight championship last week. And, No. 3., the Auburn student body will return the Iron Bowl Trophy to its rightful owner and will have to sing the Crimson Tide's fight song.*
*Ed Note: The winner of the Iron Bowl receives the ODK-Foy Sportsmanship Trophy, which is as ugly a name as the rivalry it commemorates.