The Alabama Crimson Tide (14-7, 3-4) snapped their four game losing streak with a 72-66 win over Arkansas (15-6, 3-3). Alabama hadn’t been able to pull out these close games all season long, but they finally played well down the stretch against the Razorbacks to pull out the huge victory.
It was Trevor Releford’s afternoon for the Crimson Tide. After struggling to just a 2-point effort in the loss to South Carolina, Releford was unstoppable. Arkansas couldn’t contain the sophomore point guard as he got the basket at will. Releford led the team with 18 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, dished a pair of assists, and had a couple of steals.
Releford was instrumental in some half court traps that forced Arkansas into some turnovers. For the game, the Hogs turned it over 16 times.
While the game ran through Releford for much of the afternoon, it was the play of JaMychal Green down the stretch that helped the Tide edge out Arkansas. Green did not start the game, but didn’t really show any ill-affects from the ankle injury on Wednesday night. Green dominated the glass in the game’s waning minutes, and came up with a couple big offensive rebounds as well. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and grabbed 8 rebounds.
Andrew Steele also came up big in some big situations this afternoon. He hit a couple of huge free throws, and had a big layup with under a minute to go. Steele finished with a career-high 11-points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and led the team with 6 assists.
Tony Mitchell was the fourth Alabama player in double-figures scoring 11 points and grabbing 6 rebounds.
For the Hogs, Rickey Scott led the way with 18 points. Mardracus Wade and B.J. Young also finished in double-figures with 12 and 11 points respectively. But, overall the Alabama defense played really well. Grant employed a zone defense for much of the game, and Alabama did a great job in closing out on Arkansas shooters. Alabama held Arkansas to eight points under their seasonal average of 74 points per game.
It was a sloppy game at times, with the teams combining for 33 turnovers, but I thought that both teams played really well. Offensively, Alabama was able to put up 72 points on 50% shooting from the floor, and moved to 7-1 on the season when they score 70+ points.
Like I said in my game preview, this was an absolute crucial game for the Crimson Tide, and the team really answered the bell from Anthony Grant calling them out after losing to South Carolina. This was the definition of a team victory. The team really played together for this win over a good basketball team.
This will be a solid resume win for Alabama. Arkansas came into the game in the bubble conversation, and was in the top-60s in RPI. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Hogs end up making the NCAA Tournament, and even if they don’t, they should be squarely in the bubble conversation when Selection Sunday rolls around.
The one concern for Alabama in the immediate aftermath of this game was the apparent back injury suffered by freshman guard Trevor Lacey. He played only 14 minutes, and he was in obvious pain on the bench. I’ll update you on the injury as soon as I hear something.
After this critical victory for the Crimson Tide, they now get a much needed week off before hosting the Ole Miss Rebels at Coleman Coliseum next Saturday. The Rebels take on South Carolina tonight, and then they’ll have a week off before coming to Tuscaloosa. That game lingers as a critical one for Alabama as well.
They’ll need to take care of business at home before going on the road for games against Auburn and LSU. In any case, Alabama can take a little bit of time to savor this victory.
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