The first half was a prime example of a referee crew becoming the star of the show and totally ruining all of the pacing and enjoyment of players and fans. There were 19 total fouls between the two teams in less than 9 minutes, and it truly felt like every single possession was ending in a whistle.
It was, at least, ticky-tack both ways. However, Alabama seemed to get more frustrated by the consistent fouls while the Razorbacks looked to be gaining energy from turning the game into a slog. The Tide missed a whole bunch of three-point shots and went in a 10-point drought for a while there as Arkansas took a commanding lead.
Fortunately for the Tide, Juwan Gary, coming off of his shoulder injury, brought some major energy off the bench and made a couple of tough follow-up shots under the basket to get the Tide moving again.
Arkansas missed 7 of their 18 first half free throws, allowing Alabama to hang around just under the 10-point deficit range for much of the half. In the closing few minutes, Jordan Bruner finally got hot and knocked down four 3-point shots in rapid succession to bring Alabama to a 1-point deficit at halftime.
The Tide scored a quick 7 points right out of halftime to take the lead before it was decided from the powers that be that enough was enough. The Tide got called for four quick fouls in a row and missed a whole bunch of 3-point shots as the Razorbacks went on a 17-2 run to take a 10-point lead that was never relinquished.
The rest of the game was pretty much free throw practice for the Razorbacks as the Tide struggled to move without getting called for some sort of foul (and sometimes even for standing still). By the end, John Petty was tossed for his second technical foul for complaining to the referees, Herb Jones fouled out while diving for a loose ball, and the rest of the team was too frustrated to really play well any more.
The Tide ultimately lost 81-66.
There’s not really a whole lot to take away from this game. Other than Jordan Bruner for the last 5 minutes of the 1st half, nobody was really able to make their three point shots, and the Tide’s inside game found themselves getting blocked more often than not.
Despite their poor shooting, they held Arkansas’s offense to only 54 non-free throw points, most of which came from second-chance layups and dunks off of rebounds.
Look, when your opponent gets to shoot 43 free throws and you only get 8, you’re going to lose. It’s a testament to the Tide’s defense and Jordan Bruner, Petty, and Quinnerly on offense that they only lost by 15 with that big of a free throw disparity.
Herb Jones, Josh Primo, and Alex Reese were all offensive liabilities, though, and Alabama really needed at least one of them to step up. Jones in particular had more turnovers than points, and Alex Reese missed 100% of his 5 shot attempts. That can’t happen, especially in a game where every point is needed just to keep up with the opponent free throws.
The key for Coach Oats will be to get the team mindset right. This kind of game was unbelievably frustrating, at it was showing in the players’ psyches by the end. They’ll need to shake it off and get it out of their head so that they can go pick up the win this weekend, and it will be up to the newly-extended coach to make that happen.