Men’s basketball snaps Arkansas’ win streak in final seconds despite sloppy play

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

Not every win can be as pretty as Wednesday night’s rout of Ole Miss, and that was the case on Saturday. 

Regardless, the Alabama Crimson Tide (16-9, 6-6) improved to .500 in SEC play with their 68-67 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks (19-6, 8-4) at Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama couldn’t protect the basketball, giving away the ball a season-high 24 times.

“If it would have been 15, it would’ve been a completely different game,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “Twenty-four is too many for high-quality basketball players to have.”

Nobody had a special afternoon for the Crimson Tide. But a tough, resilient team effort led the way. Alabama shot just under 43% from the field and hit only seven 3-pointers. Only guards JD Davison and Jaden Shackelford eclipsed double digits, scoring 11 and 10, respectively.

Unlike on Wednesday in Oxford, Alabama was great on the defensive end. The Crimson Tide held Arkansas to 22-for-70 in shooting. Alabama allowed 21 offensive rebounds, but the Crimson Tide also forced the Razorbacks into 16 turnovers of their own. 

The Crimson Tide were also efficient from the charity stripe, knocking down 13 of their 17 attempts.

Forward Jaylin Williams kept pace for the Razorbacks for most of the afternoon, recording 22 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Stanley Umude added 19 more. SEC-leading scorer JD Notae was unable to get his usual numbers due to early foul trouble. He only played 24 minutes, scoring 12 points.

“It was big,” Alabama forward Noah Gurley said. “He’s the leading scorer in the SEC. Even with him getting those two fouls early, we knew they wouldn’t go away. But it helped.”

Alabama picked up where it left off at Ole Miss early in the game, knocking down six of its first 11 3-point attempts. The hot shooting helped the Crimson Tide jump out to a 28-18 lead with 8:34 to go in the first half. Alabama would shoot 1-for-18 from deep the rest of the game.

The Razorbacks went on a 15-3 run to cut the lead back down to two with 1:43 to go until half. The Crimson Tide took a 37-32 lead into the locker room.

The second half was a struggle for both sides, with the two teams combining for 18 turnovers and 18 fouls.

The game looked like a runaway when forward James Rojas finished a breakaway and one to put Alabama up 60-47 with nine minutes remaining.

But when the Crimson Tide are the team on the floor, the game is never over until it’s over.

Arkansas shifted into a new gear, and the Hogs ran wild out to an 18-4 run to grab the lead with 2:36 to play.

Coleman Coliseum went silent, and Alabama fans in attendance believed the Crimson Tide were going to drop their 10th game of the season.

In the timeout that followed the run, Davison said there was no specific assignment from the coaches to the players.

“There was no big message,” Davison said. “We were just going to stay together, fight together and win together.”

That is when Gurley stepped up. The Furman transfer showed off his post moves on the next two possessions, scoring four hard-earned points over Williams’ outstretched hands.

Oats said he is aware of Gurley’s offensive talent.

“I thought he was great tonight,” Oats said. “When guys flop, I think he gets a little less aggressive. But he was good at it at Furman, and he’s been good at it in practice.”

The Razorbacks had one last heave from half-court, but the prayer went unanswered and Alabama held on.

“Our guys fought hard,” Oats said. “We got up 13 on them. Give Arkansas a lot of credit for coming back. Our guys showed a lot of resolve. We got plenty of stuff to improve on, but that’s a big win. They’re the hottest team in the SEC.”

Alabama will stay in Tuscaloosa for its next game, with the Crimson Tide welcoming the Mississippi State Bulldogs into Coleman Coliseum for a rematch on Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2 or ESPNU. The Bulldogs won the first matchup between the two teams 78-76 in Starkville on Jan. 15.