Hoping For Good Memories Saturday
In a trip to Fayetteville a month ago, Alabama was victimized by Bobby Portis, who connected on 14 of 17 field goal attempts en route to a Razorbacks freshman record 35 points as Arkansas took a 65-58 decision.
The Crimson Tide may be able to keep Portis under better wraps when Bama hosts the Hogs in Coleman Coliseum Saturday, but as Alabama Coach Anthony Grant pointed out Friday, Arkansas has a lot of weapons. In fact, the Razorbacks are on a six-game winning streak and coming off a record-setting 110-80 win over Ole Miss.
Tip-off Saturday will be at 3 p.m. CST, following a Senior Day ceremony that is expected to begin at 2:40 p.m.
Alabama has struggled, but still has a mathematical chance to get a first-round bye in next week's Southeastern Conference Tournament. Alabama is 12-18 on the year and 6-11 in SEC games. The Razorbacks have clinched a bye in the tournament and have a mathematical chance to finish as high as third in the league and get a double bye in the tournament.
For Alabama to get to 10th in the league, Bama will have to beat Arkansas and also have Vanderbilt lose at Ole Miss on Saturday.
Grant likely isn't wasting brain power worrying about the Tide's seed in the SEC Tournament. Facing one of the hottest teams in the league – indeed, in the nation – is more than enough to think about.
Grant said he is "really impressed" with the Hogs, who he said "have a lot of different weapons they can come at you with. It's going to be about our team doing a great job on offense and defense."
One of those Arkansas weapons is 6-7, 232-pound senior forward Coty Clarke of Birmingham, who was SEC Player of the Week last week after averaging 17 points and 5 rebounds in wins at Kentucky and against Georgia. Arkansas is led by Rashad Madden, who averages 12.5 points per game; Portis at 12.3; and Michael Qualls at 12.1.
A huge problem for Alabama, particularly in recent games with junior inside player Nick Jacobs out of action as he takes a "leave of absence," has been rebounding. Bama ranks 12th in the league in rebound margin. But Arkansas ranks last in the conference. In the earlier meeting, however, the Razorbacks had a 42-38 advantage on the boards.
Alabama is 8-1 when out-rebounding the opponent, but 4-16 when the Tide loses that statistical battle.
Another weakness for Alabama has been that the Tide has lost five games by five or fewer points. Eight of Arkansas's 17 SEC games have been decided by five or fewer points and the Razorbacks have won four of those. Although Bama lost by seven points in Fayetteville, the Tide trailed by just three and had the ball in the final minute of play.
Alabama has been led almost all year by the lone senior scholarshipped player, Trevor Releford. Releford, who ranks in the top 10 at Bama in eight career statistical categories, is 24 points from becoming the fifth highest scorer in the 101 years of Alabama basketball. Releford has scored in double figures in 30 consecutive games and in 40 of his last 41 games dating back to last season.
With Releford playing his final game in Coleman Coliseum, Grant said, "For this young man, we need to do all we can to send him out with a win."
In his next game, Releford will tie former Bama great Robert Horry with a school record 133 games played.
Before the game in a Senior Day ceremony, Releford and walk-on Isiah Wilson will be recognized.
Releford is the only Alabama player averaging in double figures in scoring, 18.6 points per game.
Although the Bama starting lineup has changed frequently during the season, based on recent games it is likely that Releford will be joined by junior wing players Levi Randolph (9.5 points per game) and Rodney Cooper (7.6), freshman forward Shannon Hale (8.4), and freshman center Jimmie Taylor (2.6).
TIDE NOTES: Among the players Releford has passed in moving up the Alabama all-time scoring list this season is former Tide star James "Hollywood" Robinson. Robinson, now living in Las Vegas, called Releford following the achievement.
"I was in the training room when I got the call and it caught me off guard," said Releford. "It was an honor to be congratulated by a great player like Hollywood Robinson."
Hale is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week.
Randolph's next game will be No. 100 for the junior.
Alabama trails in the all-time series against Arkansas, but Bama has won six in a row and also has won six in a row in Coleman Coliseum. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series by 29-27. Alabama is 18-5 against Arkansas in Tuscaloosa.
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