Horry Knows Plenty About Clutch Shots
Horry, a former all-SEC player in Tuscaloosa and holder of seven NBA championship rings, built his reputation and nickname by making big shots at crucial times. Saturday, a trio of current Tiders did the same as Alabama fought off the visiting Razorbacks, 72-66.
Sophomore point guard Trevor Releford led a balanced scoring attack with 18 points. Junior Andrew Steele scored a career-high 11 points, most at critical junctures. Then there was senior forward JaMychal Green, who came off the bench to score 14 points, getting many of his baskets when his team needed them the most.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant brought both Steele and Releford to his post-game news conference, and was quick to praise both: "These two guys up here, the heart and passion they displayed out there, just really affected the game. I'm proud of our guys' ability down the stretch to not lose focus, and make the plays offensively and defensively, to win the game."
"Our team came out with a great sense of urgency," Releford said. "We knew we had to have this game."
The win stopped a four-game losing skid.
Releford, Green and Steele tormented the Hogs in various ways, not just in the scoring column. Releford had four boards, two assists and two steals. Green grabbed a game-high eight boards to go with two blocked shots. Steele dished out a game-high six assists to go with six boards in 29 minutes off the bench.
"(Steele) was tremendous," Grant said. "Our team, more than anything, needs the type of experience and leadership that he brings. He makes good plays, shows good decision-making, and impacts the game in positive ways. "He's been hampered (physically), so to see him go out and give us 29 minutes, I'm really proud of him."
Steele added, "I just took advantage of what our saw, and my teammates put me in a good position. I feel better. I'm not going to say (his conditioning) is all the way back. Coach (Grant) is doing a good job of managing my playing time."
Despite playing in just eight games, Steele is fourth on the team in creating "and-one" opportunities. He did just that by driving for a first-half lay-in, drawing the foul, and knocking in the free throw to draw the Tide within two in what was a nick-and-tuck first half.
Releford and Green both kept the Tide in the contest and helped it pull away late. Green's teammates began to look for the senior down low late in the game, and he converted in the lane twice in the final 4:08. The second, a monstrous dunk, put the Tide up 61-56 at the 2:55 mark, and got both the crowd and his teammates inspired.
Releford said, "You just take what the defense gives you. They were pressuring the ball, and it just opens up the lane. JaMychal (Green) had his head on right. He just put the team on his back, and went out and did what JaMychal does."
Releford had 12 of his 18 points in the first half, but when he did score in the final 20 minutes, it was mostly at big times, such as a put-back with 2:03 left to make the score 63-56, Alabama.
Said Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson, "They must have wanted it more than we did. In the end, we didn't make some execution plays, and they did. "Give Alabama some credit. I think Anthony (Grant's) done a great job here."
Example: Late in the game, with Alabama clinging to a five-point advantage, Steele broke free down the lane for a lay-up that seemed to take the life out of the Razorbacks with 39 seconds to go.
"That's what players do. They make plays," Anderson said.
Green, Steele and Releford combined to make five-of-six from the foul line in the final 1:15. Tony Mitchell (11 points) nailed a pair during that stretch, too.
Alabama closed the game on an 18-10 run. Steele said there was a reason. "We always talk about finishing.," he said.T"his game, we focused on it. We did a good job at the end of both halves finishing
The Crimson Tide (14-7, 3-4 SEC) now have a week off before Ole Miss comes calling for a 7 p.m. tip next Saturday.
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