Absolutely nothing comes easy for this Crimson Tide team, that’s for sure. Facing a must-win in Coleman Coliseum, the Tide hosted red-hot Arkansas, winners of nine-straight, and had to rely on some clutch buckets from a transfer, and one of the worst must-make shot attempts by the visitors you’ll see — after blowing a late 13-point lead, I add.
Things got off well enough, with Bama matching Arkansas’s intensity on the glass, and carrying over their hot shooting from Wednesday night. Angry Chuck made an early appearance. Shack got off to a nice start. Jusuan Holt and James Rojas came off the bench and gave the Tide some much-needed defensive momentum.
Unfortunately, what would be the story of the second half also made an early appearance — a whistle-happy crew, who though the sell-out crowd was there to see them, and a lot of turnovers, many unforced by an out-of-control JD Davison.
Despite leading most of the game, and even running their lead up to 13 at one point, everything basically fell apart with 7 minutes left, and Alabama up by 11. The bench went silent. The shooters were ice cold from the perimeter (in fact, despite being 6 /16 from deep at half, the Tide would finish 1/17 after the break). Everyone got in on the turnover action. And more troublingly, the defensive intensity on the boards evaporated. With 7 minutes left, Alabama and Arkansas each had 34 rebounds. The Razorbacks would finish with a 50-41 advantage.
It culminated in the lowest ebb when, at 1:21 remaining, the Hogs took a one-point lead.
Fortunately, big Noah Gurley had two huge buckets in the paint, the Tide grabbed a critical late rebound, and Arkansas took the mother of all terrible shots while trailing by one, for the Tide to secure the 68-67 victory.
For a game that Alabama was handily winning most of the day — and even dominating in stretches — it was perilously close to a reprise of that unforgivable Georgia debacle. But, a must-win it was, and a win was secured. In the process, Alabama finally moves to .500 in conference play, and halted the red hot Razorbacks 9-game winning streak.
Nothing comes easy for this team. Absolutely nothing. But, the W is in the bag. So, celebrate — that was a quality win over a damned dangerous team.