Alabama Downfall

One has to give Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried credit for keeping a stiff upper lip Saturday. Following Bama's home loss to Arkansas the Crimson Tide head coach was talking about his team's "heart and toughness" and promising that Alabama would get back to playing winning ball.

Alabama lost to Arkansas for the second time this season on Saturday. The loss ended a 17-game winning streak for Bama in Coleman Coliseum, and it wasn't near as close as the final score showing the Razorbacks winning 63-57.

Following the game, Gottfried said he was disappointed, but promised "We're going to stay together and be positive with one another and turn this thing around."

The thing that needs turning around is Alabama's play. The Crimson Tide was one of the pre-season darlings to potentially be a contender for the national championship. In recent weeks Bama stock has been falling steadily. Alabama is now 15-5 overall and only 2-4 in Southeastern Conference games.

The only good thing about Bama's loss was that it wasn't the blowout that has been suffered by the Tide in three other conference losses. Arkansas became the first SEC Western Division team to win a conference road game.

Although a late Alabama flurry when the issue had long been decided made the game appear to be closer than it was, the loss to the Razorbacks followed along the same lines as other Bama setbacks in SEC play this year. Arkansas got off to a 10-0 lead, had a 31-18 halftime advantage, and led by as many as 25 points in the second half before the Tide cut the margin to single digits with just 2:32 to play in the game.

Both Gottfried and Arkansas Coach Stan Heath pointed to the play of the Razorbacks' 7-0 center Steven Hill as key to the Hogs' victory. Gottfried actually called him a "great" player. Hill came into the game averaging 6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Against Alabama he was able to get 8 points and 16 rebounds. Arkansas out-rebounded Bama by 43-30.

Alabama's lone bright spot was Richard Hendrix, who had 28 points and 11 rebounds.

Crimson Tide perimeter play could not have been more dismal. The starting trio of outside players – point guard Ron Steele and wings Alonzo Gee and Mykal Riley – combined for four points with one field goal on 1-14 shooting. Including back-ups, the Tide's perimeter shooters were 4-27. Gee had three points, Steele one, and Riley did not score.

Alabama made only 7 per cent of its three-point shots, 1-14.

Alabama returns to action Wednesday at LSU with tipoff at 8 p.m. CST. The Tide will be back in Tuscaloosa February 3 against South Carolina. The South Carolina game is a sellout. The Arkansas game was also sold out, although there were quite a few no-shows. And the arena had lost many spectators long before the final buzzer Saturday.

Alabama was swept by the Razorbacks this year. Arkansas romped 88-61 in Fayetteville. The Tide will be trying to sweep LSU. Bama was a 71-61 winner over the Bengal Tigers earlier this month in Coleman Coliseum.

Steele, who was a pre-season All-America who has had a poor year owing to injuries, said, "It's frustrating. It's not our talent. It's not that we're not good enough."

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