An Inside Look At Tide, Hogs
Here is a look at the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Arkansas Razorbacks from The Sports Xchange.
Alabama is at the midpoint of the season, is down in scholarship players, and still coach Anthony Grant demands that this team run.
"I feel great," said guard Mikhail Torrance. "I feel the best I've felt in three years."
The Tide (11-5, 1-1 SEC West) has played 16 of its 30 regular-season games. Down to just nine scholarship players, you might think Grant would back off his pressing, trapping style.
"We have to have an identity that our guys understand how we expect the game to be played and what we want to do," Grant said. "That requires us to at times press (defensively), and at times (play) man, and at times (play) zone. We're going to try to push the pace offensively. We're going to do what we do."
A grueling preseason is now benefiting a team that will lean on conditioning if it is to make a serious run at the NCAA Tournament.
Sophomore guard Andrew Steele was lost for the season last week after surgery for a stress fracture near his ankle. He joined senior forward Demetrius Jemison, who will redshirt this season after tearing his Achilles' tendon during a preseason workout.
"Obviously we've had a couple of losses this year, personnel-wise, and you hate to see that happen but that is a part of sports," Grant said. "It's a matter of other guys having opportunities to step up and play a bigger role."
A depleted bench means that of the nine scholarship players, all are averaging at least 10 minutes per game.
Asked if the lack of bodies has changed Alabama's up-tempo, pressing style, Torrance said, "Not at all."
"We prepared for seven weeks for situations like this," Torrance said. "Some people have had to play extended minutes, but I feel like our bodies are prepared for it."
Alabama travels to Arkansas on Saturday.
VANDERBILT 65, ALABAMA 64: Senior forward Mikhail Torrance scored a game-high 23 points but it wasn't enough as the Alabama lost at Coleman Coliseum. Vanderbilt's Jeffrey Taylor made 1 of 2 free throws with six seconds left to give the Commodores a 65-64 lead.
After an Alabama timeout, senior guard Anthony Brock took the inbounds pass the length of the floor before putting up a running jump shot that missed the mark. Sophomore forward JaMychal Green grabbed the rebound but could not get off a shot before time expired. Alabama dropped to 11-5 (1-1 SEC) while Vanderbilt improved to 13-3 (2-0 SEC).
--Freshman guard Tony Mitchell, out for three games while recovering from mononucleosis, played 11 minutes in the SEC opener against LSU and had six points, hitting three of 11.
"It turned out that Tony had a case of (mononucleosis)," Grant said. "We held him out until the doctors cleared him. Obviously, he was not 100 percent yet, but he was excited to be out there."
--Alabama has now won its last three SEC regular-season road games after beating Ole Miss and Tennessee to end last season under then-interim head coach Phillip Pearson.
--F JaMychal Green is second in the latest SEC stats in field goal percentage (.555); G Mikhail Torrance is first in free throw percentage (.878) and third in assists (5.1 per game).
ON THE SPOT: While Alabama is getting good scoring from its guards, that scoring is not coming from beyond the 3-point line. The Tide made just 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) against LSU in the conference opener. Alabama entered the week 10th in the SEC in scoring at 72.1 points per game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Guys are beginning to understand what we're trying to do." -- Alabama coach Anthony Grant, after the Tide held LSU to just 49 points to win for the fifth time in the last six games.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Alabama continues to get more comfortable in Anthony Grant's pressing, trapping defense, forcing LSU into 15 turnovers in the SEC opener for both teams. Not that the Tide was that far away all along: of the four defeats this season, two were close losses to two ranked teams, Purdue and Kansas State.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F JaMychal Green, F Tony Mitchell, G Mikhail Torrance, G Senario Hillman, G Anthony Brock. Key Subs -- G Chavez Davis, F Justin Knox, F Chris Hines.
Alabama 77, Tennessee State 65
Alabama 67, Toledo 50
Alabama 66, LSU 49
Vanderbilt 65, Alabama 64
at Arkansas, Saturday Jan. 16
vs. Tennessee, Wednesday, Jan. 19
vs. Mississippi State, Saturday, Jan. 23
vs. LSU, Wednesday, Jan. 27
IN FOCUS: Alabama lost another guard, sophomore Andrew Steele, for the season with a stress fracture in his left ankle. However, since Steele has been out since the seventh game of the season, all that did was make the current playing rotation official. With eight scholarship players available, the Tide will continue to play an up-tempo, pressure style game. However, how long this team will last playing at that pace against SEC competition will determine the success of this season.
--Sophomore G Andrew Steele is out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture in his left ankle that required surgery. Steele developed the injury in late November and has not played since a holiday tournament in Orlando. Steele started the first six games of the season, averaging 3.8 points.
--Senior F Demetrius Jemison is out for the season after tearing his Achilles' tendon during preseason workouts.
The impact sophomore guard Courtney Fortson will have on Arkansas the rest of this season was evident right away after he made his belated season debut in the Razorbacks' game against Texas.
After missing the first 14 games of the season, Fortson scored 19 points and handed out seven assists as the Hogs dropped a 96-85 decision to the No. 2-ranked Longhorns.
Fortson's contributions go beyond mere numbers.
He adds a spark to the offense and also frees up his class and backcourt mate Rotnei Clark on the perimeter. Clarke scored a game-high 24 points for the Hogs.
It wasn't coincidence that the Longhorns were able to pull away for their final 11-point margin of victory when Fortson had to spend some time late on the bench trying to get over cramps.
But while Fortson will be a big addition as the Hogs enter SEC play, they also need to get 6-8 forward Michael Sanchez back on the court. Sanchez has missed the last six games and has only four appearances this season because of a foot injury.
He averaged just under six points and five rebounds a game as a freshman last season, starting 28 games, and the Razorbacks need him to help with frontcourt depth.
The lack of muscle was particularly seen against the Longhorns, who out-rebounded the Razorbacks 43-27. The mitigating factor there for the Hogs, of course, is that they aren't going to be facing the kind of power up front in the SEC West that they did when they took on the 'Horns.
The Hogs will make their conference debut when they end a nine-day layoff with a trip to Mississippi State on Jan. 14.
--G Courtney Fortson was back on the court for the first time after serving a 14-game suspension for as of yet unrevealed reasons and was 5-of-16 from the field (2-of-6 in threes) on his way to 19 points against Texas. He had a game-high seven assists, but he also was charged with six turnovers, a problem that he had a year ago as a freshman when he had 172 assists and 128 turnovers.
"In the past few months, Courtney has worked hard to address personal issues and meet objectives to facilitate his return to active competition," coach John Pelphrey said in the announcement that he was reinstating Fortson.
--G Rotnei Clarke is shooting 50 percent from three-point range (55-of-110) after compiling a 39.3 mark (83-of-211) as a freshman last year. As a team, the Hogs are shooting 37 percent from three-point range (95-of-257) after shooting 33.2 percent on treys last season.
--After getting outrebounded by 16 in the loss to Texas, the Hogs are being beaten on the boards by more than two a game for the season. Among SEC teams, they ranked 11th, ahead of only South Carolina.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This loss was certainly not from a lack of effort. Both teams competed at a very high level, and when you flinch against really good teams and players, they will capitalize." -- Coach John Pelphrey, after the Razorbacks' loss to Texas.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Getting Courtney Fortson back will make a big difference for the Razorbacks, who finished non-conference play with 7-8 record after losing to Texas. The Hogs seemed to be getting things back together during a five-game winning streak that was capped by a win over previously unbeaten Missouri State, but they have lost their last three since then.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Marshawn Powell, F Michael Washington, G-F Jemal Farmer, G Rotnei Clarke, G Courtney Fortson. Key Subs -- F Delvon Johnson, F Glenn Bryant, G Stefan Welsh, G Stephen Cox, G Julysses Nobles.
Baylor 70, Arkansas 47
UAB 73, Arkansas 72
Texas 96, Arkansas 85
at Mississippi State, Thursday, Jan. 14. (Note: Mississippi State 82, Arkansas 80)
vs. Alabama, Saturday, Jan. 16.
vs. Florida, Thursday, Jan. 21.
at Kentucky, Saturday, Jan. 23.
vs. Mississippi State, Thursday, Jan. 28.
IN FOCUS: The Razorbacks are a different team from the one that slogged its way through December, but they face a tough conference opener at division favorite Mississippi State. They need to come up with an answer for State's Jarvis Varnado at both ends of the court, especially on the boards.
--Freshman G Julysses Nobles, who had started the first 14 games, did not play against Texas. The return of Courtney Fortson bumped him from the starting lineup, and senior Stefan Welsh provided backup at the point guard spot. After averaging 8.0 points through his first eight games, Nobles has scored only 11 points over his last six appearances.
--F Marshawn Powell, a 6-7 freshman, scored 18 points in the loss to Texas and is averaging 15.1 for the season. He leads the Razorbacks in rebounding at 6.5 per game.
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