Tide Has To Slow Down Arkansas Offense

One of the primary topics of conversation regarding men’s college basketball is the dearth of scoring. Alabama, which ranks almost at the bottom in scoring in Southeastern Conference games, probably is thinking more about how best to get that scoring average lower for its next opponent.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant was asked what rule change he might institute in order to improve the rate of scoring in college basketball and said, “Probably a shorter shot clock.” The Crimson Tide’s next opponent, which has long proclaimed itself as presenting “The fastest 40 minutes in sports,” is already working off a quick internal clock.

Alabama (12-5 overall and 2-2 in SEC games) goes to Arkansas (13-4, 2-2) for a 6 p.m. CST Thursday game on ESPN2.

It shapes up as a contest of strength against strength and weakness against weakness. In SEC games, Arkansas leads in scoring, 78 points per game, and Bama leads in scoring defense, allowing 55 points a game. On the other hand, the Tide is 13th in the 14-team league in scoring in SEC games at 58.8 points per game, and the Razorbacks are dead last in scoring defense, giving up more than they score – 78.8.

“We have been impressed watching Arkansas on film,” Grant said. “They are coming off a close loss at home (not really so close, Ole Miss 96, Arkansas 82), but they have a good body of work on the season.

“They are the highest scoring team in the league, a team that can get out and run on mades (made field goals), misses, and turnovers. They have very good defensive players and will be pressing.”

Alabama is also coming off a home loss, buried by 70-48 by No. 1-ranked Kentucky last Saturday.

Arkansas is the next hurdle in a tough Tide stretch that includes back=to-back losses at South Carolina and home to Kentucky and is followed by Auburn in Tuscaloosa Saturday, Florida at home Tuesday, and Bama headed to Kentucky a week from Saturday.

Anyone following SEC basketball knows that Alabama must be particularly concerned with the Razorbacks’ 6-11, 242-pound sophomore forward Bobby Portis. The Tide certainly knows what to expect after Portis scored a career-high 35 points on Bama in Fayetteville last year. He also blocked six shots in that game.

Grant said, “He’s a really good player, one of the leading candidates for SEC Player of the Year.”

Portis is averaging a league-leading 23.3 points per game against SEC competition this year. He also leads the league in field goal percentage, 61.4, and is third in rebounding (9.3 per game). He has three consecutive double-doubles.

Coach Mike Anderson’s Arkansas team has other weapons, of course. Michael Qualls, a 6-6 junior guard, averages 16.1 points per game, and 6-5 senior guard Rashad Madden 10 per game.

Alabama is led by guard Levi Randolph at 15 points per game, point guard Ricky Tarrant at 12.8 per game, and wing Rodney Cooper at 10.6.

Alabama and Arkansas will meet for the 58th time in history Saturday. The Hogs have a slim 29-28 advantage in the series, which includes six wins in the last seven games in Bud Walton Arena.

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