After frittering away a 12-point first half lead with a half dozen uncharacteristically poor offensive trips, the Tide trailed at halftime, 34-33. But Chuck Davis, who had missed work during the week with the flu, got 16 of his 21 points after halftime, and a Bama defense that had allowed 6-of-10 three point shooting by the Hogs in the first half did not allow a trey in the second stanza.
The win improved Alabama's Southeastern Conference Western Division-leading record to 9-2. Bama, ranked 16th in the nation, is 20-4 overall and the first SEC team to reach the 20-win plateau. Arkansas fell to 17-8 overall, 5-7 in SEC play.
The primary reason for Alabama's victory was Bama Coach Mark Gottfried making second half defensive adjustments. "We weren't guarding them very well in the first half," Gottfried said. He said he made the decision to go to the press before halftime, but elected to wait until after intermission so the Razorbacks would not see it in the first half and have time to discuss it at the break.
Additionally, Alabama spent much of the second half in a 1-3-1 zone with the wings extended to guard the three-point shooters. The Razorbacks made 6-of-10 treys in the first half, but failed to connect on seven second half three-point shots.
Arkansas Coach Stan Heath said the defensive changes "took us out of our rhythm." Arkansas had only 29 second half points.
Heath entered the post-game interview room as Alabama players were leaving. The Arkansas coach congratulated the Tide players, then said to Davis, "I hope you're healthy next time." He later said that he was not surprised the Davis, who had missed Monday's practice and had only a little work Tuesday, would come back with a strong game.
Davis played 37 minutes–which Gottfried said was more than planned–and hit 7-of-9 field goals and 7-of-13 free throws for 21 points He also had six rebounds, four steals, two blocked shots, and an assist.
Alabama got 19 points from Earnest Shelton and 18 from Kennedy Winston. Shelton was well-covered by the Arkansas defense most of the night, but made a layup to give Bama the lead for good at 41-39, then buried two key three-point shots.
Arkansas got 16 points from Jonathon Modica, who has been starring of late for the Razorbacks, but Modica had 14 of those points in the first half. He took only one second half shot. Darian Townes had 14 points and 12 rebounds–including six offensive boards–and Ronnie Brewer had 11 points, but hit only 4-of-13 field goal tries.
Arkansas out-scored Alabama from the field. The Razorbacks hit 25-of-58 field goals (43.1 per cent) and 6-of-17 three-pointers (35.3 per cent), while Alabama was good on 22-of-41 from the field (53.7 per cent) and 4-of-13 treys (30.8 per cent). One reason Arkansas took 17 more shots from the field is the Hogs out-rebounded Alabama, 33-29, with Arkansas getting 17 offensive boards.
Another reason is that Arkansas fouled Alabama so many times. The Hogs were whistled 26 times, Alabama only nine. But Alabama did not have a good game shooting foul shots, making only 24-of-36. Arkansas made only 7-of-12 free throws.
Evan Brock was particularly effective for Bama off the bench. Although he had just four points, he had five offensive rebounds–one a slam dunk putback, the other leading directly to a Shelton three-pointer that put the Tide lead at 10 points–and three assists.
The Tide press caused a handful of turnovers. Arkansas turned it over 16 times and Alabama scored 20 points off those turnovers. The Razorbacks scored 14 points off 14 Tide turnovers.
Heath was pleased with the effort of his Razorbacks. He noted that Arkansas had played Alabama "as tough as anyone has here." He added, "The thing that impresses me about Alabama is their commitment to defense. They could make a good run in the post-season."