After receiving a scare with the FBI report coming out with Collin Sexton’s name involved, there was a little trepidation in Tuscaloosa about Sexton’s availability for Saturday’s game. The athletic department obviously felt that they had handled the situation at the beginning of the season when Sexton was suspended for the year’s first game. Sexton started and played 31 minutes. However his presence wasn't enough and the Tide fell to Arkansas by a score of 76-73.
As has been their M.O. lately, ‘Bama started slowly, falling behind 7-0 early. The Tide slowly closed the gap, and then let the Hogs push back out to a 10 point lead. Somehow the Tide was able to cut the deficit to 35-31 at the half. Late three point shots by Alex Reese and Avery Johnson, Jr kept the team close.
At the half, ‘Bama was shooting only 40%- 10-25, including 5-14 for 36% from three point range. Free throws, once again, were a hindrance with a 6-9 effort in the first stanza. Arkansas had a hot shooting first half going 13-27 for 48% with 4-7 (57%) from deep, and 5-5 from the free throw line. Considering everything ‘Bama was very fortunate to be within five points at the break.
The Tide came out of the half hot, playing fast and loose and took the lead 39-37 when Braxton Key hit a three point shot. Key followed that with a put back of a miss, giving the home team a four point margin. When Sexton made two free throws with about six minutes remaining the Tide held a 57-56 lead. Arkansas then went on a 9-0 run to take an eight point lead with 3:21 left. Alabma hit a couple of three pointers to stay within striking distance, but missed key free throws in the last minute of the game. Arkansas made two free throws for a three point lead with around two seconds left, and Sexton’s half court heave at the buzzer missed the mark, leaving the Tide on the wrong end of the 76-73 score.
Alabama shot better in the second half, but were sloppy on too many possessions. In continued instances, there were Tide players standing around until the end of the shot clock, even being called for three shot clock violations. The team was 12-24 from the field and 6-13 from three point land in the second half. Going 12-18 from the free throw line proved costly. Arkansas was 14-30 in the second half, 3-7 from behind the arc, and gave the Tide a chance by going 10-16 from the line.
The Tide, once again, were punished on the boards, losing the rebound battle 36-28. Of those Arky had 13 on the offensive glass. On one possession the Hogs got four cracks at scoring by securing three offensive rebounds.
Key led the way in scoring with 16 points and had five rebounds, with three costly turnovers. Sexton had 15 points and six assists. Being at home, John Petty had a good shooting night 4-6 from deep, and added 14 points. Dazon Ingram was also in double figures with 13, but only had two rebounds, when he averages almost six per game. Donta Hall continued his late season disappearing act, scoring four points, but leading the team with eight boards. Reese hit a couple of threes for six points, and Johnson, Jr had five, which summed up the production from the bench. Herbert Jones and Daniel Giddens combined for zero points and three rebounds (all by Jones) in 30 minutes of action. Arkansas had five players in double figures with Daryl Macon leading all scores with 17 points.
There is no way to sugarcoat this one. Despite coach Avery Johnson continuing to lean on the “we are so young” drivel, the team has underachieved. Sure there have been some marquee wins, but also some inexplicable losses. Twenty-nine games into the season, the guys have been around the block now. Yes, the Tide is one of the youngest teams in the country, but have continued to play, at times, like they have just started the season. The NCAA hopes aren't dashed yet, but they may very well be on life support. With two regular season games remaining and then the SEC Tournament, they need to try to find a win or two. The next chance is on Tuesday in the last home game of the season, when the Tide hosts Florida. The game is at 6 p.m. CT and can be seen on ESPN.
Roll Tide and Buckle Up