Two Good Finishes For Polished Result

If there is a chess team at Alabama, the message from the chess coach is probably "Finish." That's the mantra of success for the Crimson Tide these days, and it was on display again Saturday as Bama used strong first and second half finishes to polish off Arkansas in a Southeastern Conference basketball game in Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama, which looked to be just about finished in the Southeastern Conference race after four consecutive losses, ended a two-game Arkansas winning streak as the Crimson Tide was a 72-66 victor.

Alabama outscored Arkansas 12-5 in the last eight minutes of the first half and the Crimson Tide had an 15-10 advantage in scoring in the final 4:08 minutes of the second half.

Bama improved to 3-4 in SEC games and14-7 overall while the Razorbacks fell to 3-3 in conference games and 15-6 overall. Alabama does not play again until next Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Ole Miss at 7 p.m. CST. Bama has a rematch with Arkansas in Fayetteville on Feb. 23.

Alabama trailed by 26-25 with eight minutes to play until intermission, and was able to take a 3730-halftime lead. The Razorbacks fought back to take the lead 56-55 late in the second half, but Bama built as much as a seven-point lead in the final moments in putting the game away.

The game was tied six times and there were seven lead changes, the last with 4:08 to play when JaMycal Green hit a short jumper for a 57-56 advantage.

Although Alabama started the game with three freshmen in the lineup, it was the team's veterans who really came through. Sophomore point guard Trevor Releford had 18 points and junior forward Tony Mitchell had 11. Senior Green came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down a game-high eight rebounds, while junior wing Andrew Steele had a career high 11 points, six assists, and six rebounds coming off the bench.

Rickey Scott was high man for the Razorbacks with 18 points, including 3-5 on three-point shots.

The visitors actually had two more points from the field than did Alabama. The Razorbacks made 24-56 field goals, including 6-17 three-pointers, for 54 points from the field. The Tide took six fewer shots, making 25-50, including only 2-15 treys, for 52 points from the field. But Alabama was good on 20-25 free throws, including 7-8 in the final 1:15 of the game. Arkansas made 12-17 free throws.

Alabama had a big edge in rebounding early in the game, but finished with only a 35-30 margin on the boards.

Although the Hogs made only 2-8 three-point shots in the second half, Bama did not hit a trey in six second-half attempts.

Alabama had a 40-30 advantage on points in the paint, but the Razorbacks had the edge in second half points, 14-9. Alabama made 17 turnovers and Arkansas scored 24 points off those miscues. The Razorbacks had 16 turnovers, leading to 15 Bama points.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "We had guys who stayed the course. We had to understand the situation we are in. We wanted to be aggressive. We felt we could not be passive. We had to attack.

"We want the team to stay focused on the mission."

That mission is to win.

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson called it a hard-fought game. The Razorbacks top scorer, Scott, said he thought it was the best road game Arkansas has played this year.

Arkansas took a 5-0 lead to open the game. Bama finally tied the score at 10-10 when Releford went coast-to-coast for a layup. Although the Razorbacks went back up on top, Releford against dribbled the length of the court for a layiup that tied the game at 21-21.

The Hogs had two particularly productive offensive trips in the second half. On one, Arkansas made the first of two free throws, got the rebound on the miss, and drained a three for a four-point trip. In the final moments, when it seemed the Tide was in control with a 63-56 lead and under two minutes to play, the Hogs' Scott hit a three-pointer. On the inbounds pass by Bama, Mitchell lost the handle and Scott got another two points off the turnover. Those five points came in a matter of 13 seconds and cut the Tide lead to 63-61.

TIDE NOTES: The win was the Crimson Tide's 500th win in Coleman Coliseum, the 27th win in its last 29 games at Coleman Coliseum and 11th win in its last 12 SEC home games.

Alabama is now 500-111 in Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama improved to 25-28 against Arkansas and 17-5 in Coleman Coliseum with its fifth straight home win over Arkansas.

Andrew Steele scored a career high with 11 points and added a career-high six assists. Steele's six assists matched the most by a UA player this season.

Tony Mitchell's 11 points give him 1,114 points to move him into 38th all-time at UA past Ronald Steele.

JaMychal Green's 14 points give him 1,540 career points to move him into 14th all-time at UA past Eric Washington.

Arkansas' 66 points were eight below its season average. The Razorbacks are the 12th straight opponent held under their season average.

However, Arkansas became just the seventh opponent to score 60 or more points against the Tide this season.

Alabama outscored Arkansas, 40-30, in the paint. Of UA's 21 opponents, the Tide has outscored 20 in the paint.

Alabama's bench scored 31 points in the game and the team's reserves have scored 51 points in the past two games combined.

Arkansas scored 24 points off of turnovers, the most by a UA opponent this season.

The Tide scored 70 or more points for the ninth time this season. UA is 8-1 in those games.

Alabama shot 50 percent or better from the field for the eighth time this season.

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