Alabama went into the game as the nation's eighth-ranked team, but Arkansas was not impressed as the Razorbacks romped to an 88-61 win over Bama in Fayetteville Saturday. It was the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Bama, which had built a 13-1 record with a cupcake pre-conference schedule, was never in the game as Arkansas scored the first 14 points, and had a 44-20 lead at halftime. The Hogs led by 36 points with three and a half minutes to play before Bama went on an 11-2 run in the final moments against Arkansas scrubs.
"It was really disappointing," understated Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried. "We were obviously out-played in every phase of the game. They came out with great energy and we didn't.
"That's not like us.
"It's my responsibility."
Alabama went into the start of SEC play with thoughts of being a national contender. Following the loss the Crimson Tide has to look at a very difficult start to SEC play, one that could derail any championship. Alabama will host LSU at 8 p.m. Tuesday, a game that will be telecast by ESPN2. The game is nearly a sellout with the prospect that new Bama Football Coach Nick Saban (ironically, a national championship coach at LSU in 2003) will be introduced to the public.
And it doesn't get easier after that with a road trip to always-tough Vanderbilt next Saturday.
Gottfried said, "Whether you win or lose, you have to learn from every game. We have to correct our errors and we have to make a quick turn-around."
He said, "We're better than we showed today. Arkansas is a good team and they were really good today."
Arkansas won the game by being much better at a position where Alabama would expect to have the advantage. Ronald Steele is an All-America point guard, but the Tide junior is still not at 100 per cent after having had knee and ankle problems. While Steele struggled, Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin had 18 points, 11 assists and only one turnover to key the Razorbacks win. Arkansas is now 12-3.
The closest thing to a highlight for Alabama was the Crimson Tide coming out and scoring the first seven points of the second half to cut the deficit to 17 points at 44-27. But that run ended quickly and the Razorbacks had leads of 30 or more points for much of the second half.
Alabama did not have good shot selection and most Bama shots were contested by an aggressive Arkansas defense. Bama hit only 22 of 62 shots (35 per cent). Meanwhile, Arkansas had a number of high-percentage shots – breakaway layups and uncontested jump shots – and made 35 of 68 field goals, 52 per cent. The Razorbacks blocked 10 Bama shots and the Tide made only four of 18 three-point attempts. Alabama had 15 turnovers. The Hogs, who had been averaging 16 turnovers a game, had only seven against the Tide.
And the good news? "As frustrating as it is," Gottfried said, "it's only one game."
Arkansas returns the game to Tuscaloosa January 27.