Tide Basketball Goes To Arkansas
"Arkansas probably has one of the most veteran teams in the country to be in our level," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried. "When you look at their eight or nine key players back from last year, I think six of their top players are seniors. They were very good last year and had back-to-back NCAA tournament berths. Just their veteran play and their age is an advantage. I don't think a lot of teams at our level have that kind of senior roster. So they are a terrific team. We're trying to bounce back after getting beat the other night (Florida), so it's going to be a big challenge for us."
Sunday afternoon's game will mark the 45th meeting in college basketball between the Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks. Arkansas leads the series 24-20. The trip to Fayetteville will be a homecoming of sorts for Crimson Tide senior starting guard Mykal Riley who is a native of Pine Bluff and grew up following Arkansas's successful basketball program.
"It's a fun series for me because I grew up in Arkansas. Playing against those guys, Patrick Beverley and Sonny Weems, they run up and down the court so we're going to have to do what we have to do to go in there and get this win," said Riley who averages 13.6 points for the Tide. "They're pretty good. They can shoot the three. Patrick Beverley can shoot the three. Sonny Weems is shooting it even better than he did last year, and Steven Hill is still a presence out there. They have a lot of shooters on their team."
Alabama is led in scoring and rebounding by junior power forward Richard Hendrix who is averaging 19.4 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. Hendrix ranks seventh in the NCAA in rebounding. Hot on his heels and the man who opened Southeastern Conference play with the most points of any player in the league is junior guard Alonzo Gee. Gee scored a career high 32 points, all of them on field goals as he never even attempted a free throw in the game, against Florida in Alabama's SEC opener in Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night. Gee is averaging 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds. And Riley is also averaging in double digit scoring for Alabama at 13.6 points a game.
Arkansas is coached by former Kentucky player John Pelphrey who Gottfried has known since Pelphrey came to Tuscaloosa when he was being recruited by Wimp Sanderson to play at Alabama and Gottfried was a player on Sanderson's team. The two also have a long-time association in their connection to the University of South Alabama where Gottfried's father Joe is the director of athletics and Pelphrey was USA's basketball coach for five seasons before leaving this past season to take the Arkansas job. The Razorbacks are led in scoring by sophomore Patrick Beverley who is averaging 12.7 points and Sonny Weems who averages 12.4 points. Two other Razorbacks average double digit scoring, including Darian Townes at 11.7 points and Charles Thomas at 10.3 points. A fifth player, Gary Ervin flirts with joining the quartet at 9.1 points a game. Ervin, Thomas, Weems and Townes are all seniors.
The Tide is averaging 78.9 points a game while the Razorbacks, who opened league play with a 76-70 win at Auburn on Thursday, average 74.7 points.
Following its game at Arkansas, Alabama continues its road swing as it plays at Georgia on Wednesday, January 16.
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