The 2nd ranked Alabama Crimson Tide won an exciting 86-83 contest against Arkansas on Saturday in Coleman Coliseum. Bama improved to 25-4 overall and 15-1 in the SEC while the Hogs fell to 19-10 and 8-8 in conference play.
The Tide used a tenacious defense, and big second-halves from Brandon Miller, Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Clowney, and Mark Sears, to grab the comeback victory on a night when very little was falling from the perimeter.
Alabama sent out the normal starting lineup of Sears, Miller, Clowney, Charles Bediako, and Jaden Bradley for the opening tip. The game was a slog for a while, with the Hogs taking a 5-0 lead at the 16:22 mark. The score remained close, albeit low scoring, over the next several minutes.
With 11:22 left the score was only 11-10 in favor of the Razorbacks. Dom Welch made his presence known with two free throws and a made three pointer to tie the game at 15-15 with 10:05 left. Little did we know that would be the only three-point basket for the Tide until the last few minutes of the game.
Bama finally took a lead on a Sears drive and layup at 17-15, Miller scored a hoop at the 8:24 mark for a 19-17 Tide lead. Clowney made one of two free throws with 7:30 left for a 20-19 lead, but that quickly dissolved.
The Tide went over five minutes without scoring before Clowney made two free throws and a dunk, but Bama still trailed 35-28 at the break.
In the first half Alabama shot 10-30, including 1-10 from behind the arc, and made 7-9 free throws. The Tide had 22 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and 10 costly turnovers in the period Alabama. Bama also made only 6-14 layups as the Razorbacks size and length affected shots in the paint. Miller was the leading scored with seven points. Arkansas shot 14-35 for 40%, 1-3 from three point range, and made 8-9 free throws. The Hogs also had 22 rebounds, with two assists, four blocks, five seals, and six turnovers.
Coach Nate Oats inserted Quinerly in the starting five to start the second half in the place of Bradley — and it saved the game. The move definitely paid dividends from the get-go.
Quinerly fed Clowney and Miller for dunks to excite the crowd and get the Tide going in the second period. Quinerly scored on an old fashioned three point play with 16:49 left to cut the margin to 42-39.
Miller made a basket with 14:01 left to give the Tide their first lead since midway through the first half. A 10-0 run for Bama where the held the Hogs scoreless for over five minutes helped the Tide build a lead of 54-46 with 11 minutes left. Miller made two free throws to push the lead to 56-46 with 10:38 left before Arkansas had a little spurt to get with within six.
Quinerly continued to drive in the lane and score or create. The senior point guard fed Nick Pringle for a hoop down low and then for a rim-rattling dunk to keep the Tide margin at a consistent nine to 10 points. Bama, particularly Miller and Sears, continued to score at the free throw line. When Miller made his first, and only, three point basket of the game with three minutes left the Tide had a seemingly insurmountable lead of 75-63.
However the Hogs would not go away.
Arkansas cut the lead to 78-73 with 1:13 left by driving and scoring quickly, and also being fouled by the Tide. Sears made one of two at the one minute mark for a 79-73 lead, but Arky scored quickly. Sears was fouled again and made both on this trip for a 81-75 lead with 35 seconds left. For some reason the Tide fouled again and two free throws with 23 seconds left made the score 81-77. Sears again made two free throws, but Bama fouled the Hogs on a made field goal and the free throw left the Tide with a precarious three point lead.
With the score 85-83 and 7.8 seconds left Rylan Griffen was fouled and made only 1-2 shots to give the Hogs a chance. Arkansas couldn't get a good look and the Tide had the hard fought 86-83 victory and sweep of the season series.
In the second half the Tide heated up to 19-34 from the field for 56%, but only 2-12 for 16% from three, and made 18-21 free throws. Overall Bama shot 29-64 for 45%, including a dreadful 3-22 from the arc for 13%, but shot 25-30 from the charity stripe for 83%.
Alabama crashed the boards for 48 rebounds, 14 offensively, had 13 assists, six steals, four blocks, and 17 turnovers. Miller led the way with 24 points and six rebounds despite only shooting 1-6 from three point range. Quinerly looked like his old self with 16 points and seven assists while playing a season high 28 minutes. Sears scored 13 on the back of 9-10 from the free throw line. Clowney had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds while adding two steals, two assists, and a block. Bediako scored only six but grabbed 10 rebounds while fighting foul trouble and eventually fouling out.
With Quinerly’s increased role, Bradley only saw seven minutes of action. After only scoring 28 points in the first half, the Tide blistered the nets for 58 second half points — just about all from beneath the basket, where the Hogs were helpless to stop Bama’s athleticism and deep bench, and found themselves in foul trouble late.
Arkansas shot 15-35 for 43% in the second half with 4-7 from three for 57% and made 12-20 free throws. Overall the Hogs shot 29-70 for 41%, 5-10 from deep, and 20-29 from the stripe. Arky had 37 rebounds, 13 on the offensive end, six assists, 12 steals, six blocks, and 11 turnovers. Nick Smith, Jr. scored 24 and was joined by Davonte Davis with 21 and Ricky Council, IV with 20 points.
It seems like we have had to use this phrase too much lately. But this was gutsy, mentally tough Tide win over a very good (though at times underachieving) team.
The Hogs size and length gave the Tide issues all day, but particularly in the first half, by either blocking shots or altering most tries at the rim.
In the second half, Jelly was able to reach the paint and with several baskets on spinning, twisting makes at the rim. The Tide was able to make up for their abysmal day from behind the arc with free throws, dunks, and floaters in the lane.
Oats again shortened the rotation quite a bit, with Noah Gurley not seeing action for the second time in the last few games, and limiting minutes for Nimari Burnett, Welch, and Griffen. Burnett played 13 minutes and Griffen 16 while Pringle and Welch played less than seven.
The atmosphere in Coleman was electric all day in the “white out” game. Fans were encouraged to wear white, but also University staff gave out white tee shirts to fans as they entered the arena.
What is left?
The Tide has two regular season games left, a home game Wednesday with Auburn at 6 p.m. in an ESPN game.
With Texas A&M losing to Mississippi State, Bama can clinch the regular season Conference championship with a win over Auburn on Wednesday.
The regular season will end on Saturday March 5th when Bama goes to College Station to play the Aggies at 11 am CT on CBS. A win over Auburn will give the Tide their second SEC Championship in the last three years.