Alabama Blisters Razorbacks

No one is thinking Final Four, but Southeastern Conference basketball coaches—obsessive bracketologists—may be thinking they don't want to face Alabama in the SEC Basketball Tournament in a couple of weeks. That's what happens when a team seems to be getting hot at the end of the season.



Alabama had the high heat on Wednesday night in Coleman Coliseum as the Crimson Tide seared the Razorbacks. Bama jumped to a big halftime lead and cruised to an 88-67 win over Arkansas. It was Bama's biggest SEC victory since a 94-53 win over Auburn in 2005 and marked the first time this season the Tide has won back-to-back games in conference play. Bama had managed an 87-85 double overtime win over Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa last Saturday.

Alabama is now 15-12 overall and 5-8 in SEC play with three regular season games remaining. Arkansas fell to 13-13 overall and 1-12 in conference play.

Alabama Interim Coach Philip Pearson said he told his team at halftime that the team had passed the first "maturity test," which was to come out following the Saturday overtime win and play well to start the game against Arkansas. The second step of the test was how the Tide played with a big lead after going to intermission up by 49-23. The third phase, he said, would be Saturday at Ole Miss, when Bama attempts to win a road game. Alabama has not won on the road in SEC play in over two years.

The game at Ole Miss will begin at 3 p.m. CST Saturday and be televised regionally.

After earning SEC Player of the Week honors last week, senior Alonzo Gee came up with another stellar performance, scoring 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds in just 28 minutes of action. Gee was the spark of a nine-minute first half streak in which Alabama went from trailing by 10-8 to 15 straight points and a 23-10 lead and eventually to a 32-15 margin. Bama finished the half with a 12-0 run.

Gee was good on five of six three-point shots in the first half. But he wasn't alone in good shooting. Alabama hit 7-11 on three-pointers (63.6 per cent) and 32-54 on all field goals (64.3 per cent) in the first half.

Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey said, "I think they hit four threes for the game at Fayetteville (in an 89-80 Razorbacks win earlier this year). Gee had more than that by himself in the first half." The Hogs coach credited Alabama's shooting, particularly the outside shooting of Gee, and the Bama defense for the win.

While Alabama was red-hot in first half shooting, the Razorbacks hit only 8-29 from the field (27.6 per cent) and only 1-14 on treys (7.1 per cent).

All eleven Crimson Tide players scored in the contest with four players reaching double figures.

Gee did most of his damage in the first half, drilling his first five shots from three-point range en route to 17 points prior to the break. The Riviera beach, Fla. native played only 10 minutes in the second half and did not attempt a three, but his five treys in the first half were a new career high.

"It was a great feeling," Gee said. "I have to thank my teammates Senario Hillman and Mikhail Torrance. They both got me great looks, and it just felt great to make shots. After I made that first shot I knew I was going to have a good night. My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball."

Sophomore Senario Hillman had a career-high seven assists and added 13 points. Junior Yamene Coleman had a big night with 12 points (his career high in SEC games) on perfect 6-6 shooting from the field, most of them thunderous dunks. Junior Mikhail Torrance chipped in 10 points.

"I think Yamene Coleman did a nice job for us tonight," Pearson said. "He and I talked on Monday about this being a game where we would try some things for him that we've been wanting to do. He got in there and made several nice plays and finished nicely around the basket."

Alabama held a big edge on the boards, out-rebounding the Razorbacks 41-26. The Tide also got huge production off the bench with 31 points from its reserve players compared to just 12 by Arkansas.

The Razorbacks never got within 20 points in the second half.

"Our guys did a great job in the first half," Pearson said. "The whole key was that we guarded and defended them well. That allowed us to get the ball down the floor. Alonzo Gee and some other guys stepped up, made plays and made some shots. We were confident and comfortable."

Courtney Fortson led Arkansas with 21 points, and Rotnei Clarke knocked down four shots from deep and added 16 for the Razorbacks.

For the game, Alabama made 32-54 (59.3 per cent) from the field, including 9-14 (64.3 per cent) on treys. Arkansas took 10 more shots, but didn't shoot as well. The Razorbacks hit 27-64 (42.2 per cent) from the field, and 7-28 (25 per cent) on three-pointers.

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