No. 2 Alabama used a big second half to defeat Arkansas 86-83 in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
The Razorbacks came out and took the fight to the Tide in the first half leading 37-28 at intermission. The Hogs led by as much as 11 points, 35-24, in the first 20 minutes. But the Tide couldn’t be denied in the second half. Arkansas didn’t help itself at the charity stripe in the second half only making 12 of 20 after just missing one in nine attempts the first half.
“Disappointed in our free throw shooting in that second half,” Musselman said. “We shoot a decent percentage from the foul line, it’s a possible different outcome. This Alabama team is obviously ranked second in the country, and playing at home it hadn’t lost a game. I thought our effort was tremendous. Some guys played really well, and we had some guys struggle today. That’s happened to us on the road. But, we’ve got to get back and a quick turnaround obviously for Tennessee.”
One player who played well was true freshman Nick Smith Jr. making his third consecutive start. Smith finished with a team-high 24 points while also pulling down six boards, handing out an assist and coming up with two steals. Smith had 14 second-half points, but overall the team didn’t deliver enough in the final 20 minutes.
“It’s a man’s game,” Smith said. “We’ve got to come out in the second half ready to play, and we weren’t ready to play. Simple.”
Smith and the Hogs led 46-41 with 15:55 remaining in the game. But the Tide went on a 15-0 run to take a 56-46 lead with 10:39 left. Smith was asked what led to that scoring drought?
“I don’t know,” Smith said. “Like I said before, it’s a man’s game. We’ve got to be players and make adjustments throughout the game. I don’t know, man.”
Musselman talked about the physicality of his team after Smith’s comment about it being a man’s game.
“We had 13 offensive rebounds, they had 14,” Musselman said. “They did out rebound us, but I thought defensive activity we had 12 steals to Alabama’s six. I thought we did a fairly good job in a lot of areas. We’ve talked about the three-ball defense. They took 30 free throws, we took 29, but the difference is they made five more free throws than us. As I’ve looked at the stat without looking at film, that’s the difference in the game. They have 17 turnovers. We have 11 turnovers. We made five threes and only took 10 attempts, and Alabama took 22 threes and made three. Unfortunately for us. We came up three points shy.
“Tonight it was the five-minute stretch in the second half. And last game it was the last 4:30 at Bud Walton. But I think we’ve played Alabama, even though we’re 0-2, we’ve played them well. They are at home and the No. 2 team in the country. We’ve got to get better in some areas and we need everybody to play good games against a team that is really, really good like Alabama is.”
Arkansas held the Tide to 3 of 22 (14 percent) from deep, but did get outscored in the paint 52-38. Musselman was asked if it’s frustrating to take the 3-point basically away from Alabama, but get handled in the paint?
“Well, you’re not going to take away both,” Musselman said. “You’re not going to do it. That’s why they’re ranked second in the country. At least two of the three were hit on one guy from three, and possibly all three. The job that Davonte (Davis) did defensively taking away the three was incredible. We felt like if we could take away the three that it would put us in position to possibly win the game. We really struggled to start the second half. That was the difference in the game was a stretch there to start the second half.”
In addition to the missed free throws in the second half, Musselman talked about what else he saw from Arkansas’ effort in the stretch where they didn’t score for five minutes, 16 seconds.
“Well obviously we weren’t converting enough baskets either,” Musselman said. “And Alabama probably out of all the teams in the country, even teams like Houston and other great teams, they probably have the ability to put together spurts as well as any team in the country. And our game plan was to try to take away the three and try to limit fast-break points. And from a fast-break standpoint, we actually doubled them up on fast-break points. So I thought we ran the floor really well, especially in the first half. Then I thought we ran the floor really well down the stretch.”
Davis added 21 points and five rebounds. Ricky Council IV came off the bench to contribute 20 points, a rebound and two steals. Anthony Black fouled out with 4:34 remaining in the game. He had seven points, two rebounds, a couple of assists and three steals.
The Tide was led by Brandon Miller who had 26 points, but was only 1 of 6 from deep. Miller also had six rebounds and a block. Jahvon Quinerly added 16 points, three rebounds and seven assists. Mark Sears contributed 13 points and Noah Clowney finished with a double-double, 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Arkansas (19-10, 8-8) will be at Tennessee on Tuesday night with an 8 p.m. tipoff and on ESPN2. Tennessee (20-8, 9-6) had a game later Saturday against South Carolina. The Vols are 12-2 at home.
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