Topsy-Turvy Tide Finds A Way to Roast Hogs, 68-67
Turnovers, ill-timed fouls and a late surge from the Arkansas Razorbacks wouldn't keep the Crimson Tide away from a victory in Coleman Coliseum Saturday afternoon.
Noah Gurley put down consecutive post-up turnaround shots to close out the comeback attempt by the Hogs to upend the squad that had just picked up a victory over the No. 1-ranked Auburn Tigers just four days prior.
"Oh, well the first one it was kind of I was trying to get the ball to Shack, but they were denied it to him. So, you know, Coach always tells us if we got the advantage to go make a play," Gurley said. "So that kind of was just my mindset for the last two looks."
Head coach Nate Oats said the team has tried to give Gurley those underneath looks all season but the opportunities have evaded the Tide.
"It's hard, you know. Sometimes he goes to back down and the kid flops and it's a charge and he gets a little less aggressive," Oats said. "I thought he was great tonight and we've always known. He was good at it at Furman. He's been good at it in practice. He's been our one guy that we feel like we can do that with pretty consistently."
Arkansas came out with a tight defensive game plan, but early shooting success from Alabama forced the Razorbacks to back off and adjust its strategy. As Eric Musselman devised a new plan of attack, Alabama found a breach to take an early edge.
Darius Miles sparked momentum at the close of the first ten minutes as he picked an offensive rebound by Kamani Johnson and fought to the floor to give possession back to the Tide. That led to a 9-4 run from Alabama that began with a sick step-back mid-range jumper from Shackelford.
The momentum swung back to Arkansas when a few questionable calls in the eyes of Coleman Coliseum went against the Crimson Tide. The most egregious saw JD Davison attack the basket and what appeared to be an and-one situation was instead called an offensive foul. Arkansas turned the negative energy in the arena into a 9-0 run, forcing five Alabama turnovers in five minutes of game time.
Charles Bediako helped to spurn the energy back to the Crimson Tide. The true seven-footer didn't start the contest because of an unfavorable matchup according to Oats in pregame. But when the big man took the court, he was dominant. He finished the first half with nine points.
Alabama exploded into the second half with an 11-3 run through the first five minutes, sparked by a fluid layup from Quinerly, a crushing dunk from Juwan Gary and a layup finish from Noah Gurley off a fast break.
Soon after, Gurley would commit a charge foul and limp off the court favoring his left ankle, but he wouldn't miss much time before returning to help with the closing effort.
Davison surged in the second half to give Alabama a cushion as Arkansas looked to regain its footing. The electric freshman found the bottom of the net on three-straight offensive possessions with a mixture of a mid-range jumper, a fast-break layup and a converted and-one finish. Davison ended the game with 11 points, which led the Crimson Tide.
"JD was good, you know," Oats said. "He attacked downhill, he was aggressive."
Arkansas found its pace as Alabama's shooting from three fell off and the turnovers began to pile up. The Razorbacks took an 11-point run into the sub-five-minute mark to bring the game within one.
Despite a dangerous 22 turnovers and losing the rebound effort 46-40, Alabama walks away with a momentous victory as it continues into the back end of an SEC schedule that will only become more difficult.
Up next, Alabama hosts Mississippi State Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.