Razorbacks

Tide Edges Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE – Foul troubled, poor shooting Arkansas came incredibly close to achieving a 10-game winning streak but was denied at nine Saturday at the Alabama Crimson Tide’s Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Noah Gurley’s go-ahead basket with 27 seconds left advanced Alabama from down 67-66 to a SEC victorious 68-67 in Saturday’s SEC game.

Alabama advances to 16-9 overall and 6-6 in the SEC adding Arkansas, last Tuesday’s overtime upset winner over No. 1 Auburn at Walton Arena, to some impressive scalps including reigning national champion Baylor, reigning national runner-up Gonzaga and nationally ranked Houston and Tennessee. Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks rally from an 0-3 start to eight straight SEC successes plus a SEC vs. Big 12 Challenge victory over West Virginia, drops to 19-6 overall/8-4 in the SEC heading into Tuesday’s 8 p.m. SEC Network televised game at Missouri ini Columbia, Mo.

Saturday’s  game concluded  with JD Notae’s off balance miss of an Arkansas trey with eight seconds left, and Arkansas  Devo Davis drawing iron but not the basket with a desperation halfcourt heave after the Razorbacks rebounded the missed free throw by Alabama’s Jahvon Quinerly with three seconds left.

Desperate described Arkansas’ state much of the game. SEC scoring leader Notae missed all but the final two seconds of the first half that Alabama led, 37-32 at intermission upon incurring his second foul while scoreless  at 16:39 followed by taking up the slack scorer Stanley Umude  (nine first-half points) sitting with his second foul at 9:30 of the first half.

The foul trouble, Umude would foul out in the second half with 19 points  and Notae would require 11 shots to score 12 second-half points, affected Arkansas. So did Alabama’s defense with the Hogs  22 of 70 shooting nightmare. The team shooting nightmare was compounded by personal shooting nightmares from recently hot off the bench guard Chris Lykes, cooled 1 for 8 from the field Saturday and starting guard Au’Diese Toney.  Posting some memorable games lately but one Saturday he’d prefer to forget, Toney hit but 1 of 11 shots and in a fit of temper flipping the ball at Alabama’s Keon Ellis after Ellis fouled him.

Toney’s ball flip netted an automatic technical foul and 1-point Alabama advantage carrying through it’s 1-point victory.

Ellis sank both his free throws before Toney made one and missed one as 1:10 remained in the first half.

You can always pick any possession in a game,” Musselman said on postgame radio of a 1-point loss.  “You know the technical foul with Au’Diese and Au’Diese missed several around the rim. It’s really hard when you’ve got a guy go 1 of 8 and another guy go 1 of 11.  It’s just a lot to overcome from an offensive standpoint when you are on the road against a good team.   We had a backdoor play where JD didn’t finish his cut.  Obviously  we would want a much better job than what JD took with about eight seconds to go.”

Arkansas 6-10 sophomore center Jaylin Williams  starred with a career high 22 points plus 10 rebounds but kicked himself for the 6-8 Gurley scoring Alabama’s final two baskets at 1:37 and what proved the game-winning jumper at :27.

“He hit two of his four shots in the end on me,” Williams said.  “I’ve got to be a better defensive player.  He made some really big shots.”

Musselman said of his center: “Ten rebounds, obviously 22 points and even though he only had one assists he had a lot of hockey assists (the pass leading to an assist) where his ball movement led to good things.  I thought he was phenomenal defensively until those last two possessions against Gurley.  Gurley’s two baskets in the lane late were big for Alabama.”

Given the long first half absences of Notae and Umude, it appeared Arkansas had weathered the storm down only only five at intermission with Notae and Umude fresh for the second half.

But the Hogs started the second half struggling more with Notae and Umude than they had without them.

At 9:01 Alabama led, 60-47.

The Tide would not keep its lead. Behind a defense forcing a season-high 24 Alabama turnovers and allowing but 1 3-pointer in Alabama’s last 17 attempts after the Tide canned 6 of 12 treys, the Hogs “fought and clawed,” Musselman said.  They took a 65-64 lead on a Notae trey at 2:36 and a 67-66 lead on Notae’s two free throws at :48.

Despite Arkansas forcing 24 turnovers, Alabama off Arkansas’ 16 turnovers, outscored Arkansas, 28-22 in points off turnovers. 

“We have to convert when we turn a team over,” Musselman said.

Arkansas wasted too many of its 21 offensive rebounds with missed shots, including five misses on one scoreless possession,  so was outscored from field despite taking 70 shots to Alabama’s 56.

Alabama freshman reserve JD Davison led the Tide with 11 points and got key off the bench help from big men Charles Bediako, nine points, three rebounds and two shot-blocks and  James Rojas, eight points and four rebounds.

The Hogs  held Alabama leading scorer Jaden Shackelford, a 17.6 average entering the game off scoring 30 against Ole Miss, to just 10.

“The last five minutes, the last 4:30 we were right there,” Musselman said . “Just one defensive stop away to get a win.  We’ve got to turn the page. It’s the hardest loss we’ve had all year for sure.”

Victorious coach Oats surmised, “Give Arkansas a ton of credit for coming back down 13 but our guys showed a lot of resolve.”

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