Alabama is walking on thin ice.
This time last week, the Crimson Tide had just beaten Kentucky to stand alone in third place in the SEC behind Florida and Ole Miss. But after a one-point loss to Tennessee over the weekend, Alabama (12-7, 4-2 SEC) needs a win tonight over Arkansas (12-7, 3-3) to stay in touch with the conference leaders.
The Tide and Razorbacks tip off at Coleman Coliseum at 8 p.m. CT. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
This week, Alabama head coach Anthony Grant has been preaching the importance of ball security.
“Having had a chance to watch Arkansas on film, I’m really impressed,” he said at his Wednesday press conference. “You look at the numbers, and what jumps out at you defensively is forcing 20 turnovers, getting 10 steals a game. The pace of the game and style of play is going to be critical. We’re going to have to do a great job of taking care of the basketball.”
The Tide is a smaller, more guard heavy team, but Grant said it’ll take more than the skill sets of guys like Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey to be dominant offensively.
“It’s more about understanding what we have to do in terms of when to attack, how to attack and when it’s time to be patient and run offense,” Grant said. “Obviously the more skilled guys you have out there in terms of being able to handle and pass against a team like Arkansas, it helps, but you have to be good decisions.
“It comes down to your decision-making in terms of being able to take care of the basketball and find quality shots.”
Arkansas is led by forward Marshawn Powell, who, after being held scoreless against Texas A&M at the start of conference play, has caught fire. In the Razorbacks’ last four games, Powell is averaging 20.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from three-point range.
“He’s a guy that’s wired to score,” Grant said of the 6-foot-7, 240-pounder.
To counter, the Tide will rely on 7-foot center Moussa Gueye and 6-8 forward Nick Jacobs. But Arkansas has more than one weapon. Guard B.J. Young leads the team in scoring (16.4 ppg).
“We talk about this every week, it’s going to be a team game,” Grant said. “It’s not about any individual. For us, it’s about understanding what we have to do as a team. I’m sure Arkansas, they’re approaching it the same way.”
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