The thin Alabama roster took another hit prior to Saturday’s tilt with Arkansas. With Juwan Gary and James Rojas both out all season after preseason knee surgery, and Jahvon Quinerly inexplicably being denied a waiver to play by the NCAA, the Tide was already running with a short roster. Grad transfer guard Beetle Bolden has missed the last two games with a GI issue, and the hammer came down today when it was announced that Herbert Jones is out indefinitely after surgery for a fractured wrist. Jones was hurt in Wednesday nights game at LSU, but played through it before finding out how serious the injury was. To top it off seldom used Raymond Hawkins didn't dress because of the flu. Despite all that, the Tide played a spirited game, but came up short to Arkansas by a score of 82-78. After Kira Lewis, Jones is arguably the Tides most important player, a lock down defender, good rebounder, and the team’s second option for ball handling duties. Jones simply does all the dirty little things a team needs to win.
Bama came out smoking, and took a quick 12-0 lead over the Hogs with Alex Reese and Jaden Shackelford leading the way. The Razorbacks battled back on the back of Mason Jones, and took a 30-24 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. At that point the Tide’s two leading scorers, Lewis and John Petty, had combined for zero points and six turnovers. The Tide took a 39-36 lead into the half, but were battling foul trouble. At one point late in the half Bama had 10 fouls, while somehow the aggressive Arkansas team had only four.
At the half the Tide was shooting 47% on 14-30 from the field, including only 4-15 (27%) from the three point line. Bama did hit 7-7 from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes. Arkansas was 14-32 for 44%, and only 3-11 (27%) from deep, and 5-9 (55%) from the free throw line. Shackelford had 14 points at the break.
The Tide came out and hit a couple of early threes in the second half, and kept a six to seven point lead until around the 15 minute mark. Arkansas, led by Mason Jones, took a seven point lead with nine minutes remaining. Without Herb Jones, the Tide had no answer to stopping Mason Jones. Petty tried, but Jones just put the team on his back, finishing with 30 points.
When Alex Reese slammed down an alley oop pass for a jam, Bama had a 69-66 lead with four minutes left. Down the stretch the Tide couldn't get a stop, as Jones and Jimmy Whitt proved too much, and an 11-1 run put the game out of reach. Two Reese free throws cut the margin to 78-75 with 22 seconds left, but the Hogs put the game away at the free throw line. Shackelford bounced in a three pointer at the buzzer to cut the final score to 82-78.
In the second half Bama cooled down to 43% on 13-30 shooting, with only 4-16 (25%) from deep. The free throw woes from the past returned, and the team only hit 9-17 (53%) from the charity stripe. Arkansas heated up to 14-27 (52%), including 3-5 from deep, and hit 15-20 from the free throw line in the second half. For the game the Tide finished 27-60 for 45%, only 8-31 (26%) from deep, and 16-24 for 67% from the free throw line. Arkansas finished 28-59 for 48%, 6-16 for 38% and 20-29 on free throws for 69%. The Tide did win the battle of the boards 41-34. Bama had 11 assists, 17 big turnovers, leading to 27 Arkansas points, six blocks and seven steals. The Hogs had only seven assists, 10 turnovers, one block, and 11 big steals. Jones and Whitt took 39 of Arkansas 59 shots, and had 21 of their 28 made shots.
The Tide turned the ball over too much, shot poorly from the three point line, had four guys with at least four fouls, and two with three fouls, played with only seven guys, and still almost pulled the game off. The lack of depth showed, as well as the inflexibility of the players available. The 6’9”, 245 pound, Javian Davis was often matched up on 6’3” Jimmy Whitt, and did his best, but did not have the foot speed or agility to keep up with him. Whitt continually drove the lane, veered out, and hit 10 foot fall away jumpers, and finished with 26 points. Mason Jones is a very good player that leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists, but there is no way he would have dropped a 30 piece on Herbert Jones. Isiah Joe came in as the Hogs second leading scored at 16.8 points, but was held scoreless, mostly on a valiant defensive effort out of Shackelford.
With the lack of options on the bench the available guys played more minutes than normal, with Lewis never leaving the floor. Shackelford logged 38 minutes, Petty 37, and Galin Smith and Davis 20 each. Shackelford was the biggest bright spot, adding 28 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, to his stellar defensive effort. Reese added 14 points with seven rebounds. Lewis had 12 points, and was 4-13 from the field, with 0-5 from deep, had three assists, and seven mostly ugly turnovers. Davis finished with 11 points, flashing some promise around the rim. Petty followed up his four point performance at LSU on Wednesday with only eight points, but had nine rebounds and three assists. Jaylen Forbes played more than normal, 18 minutes, and busted his butt the entire time he was on the floor, and tied Petty for the team lead with his nine boards.
This was only the second home loss of the season for the Tide, and both have something in common, the lack of Herbert Jones. In the season opening loss to Penn, Jones went out early in the first half after a scary fall that led to a hyperextend elbow, and of course, he didn't play at all today. When Jones returned from the first injury he was unable to straighten his arm, or shoot the ball in practice for a few weeks. After the injury subsided his offensive game improved, and had notched four double-doubles over the last several games. His loss is a huge blow to Alabama’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The three point shots have to start falling, the Tide can't win shooting 25% from deep.
The Tide has a quick turnaround, hosting Tennessee on Tuesday night at Coleman. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be shown on one of ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU. There was another near sellout crowd today, and the team needs the fan support to continue. As frustrating as they can be at times, the team doesn't quit, and more often than not, has a chance in all their games.
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