Tide Tries To End Skid Vs. Arkansas

Alabama has its first chance for revenge this weekend, but it won't be easy. Alabama and Arkansas both have 13-11 overall records, but the Razorbacks have been getting better. Arkansas has a 6-3 Southeastern Conference record compared to the Crimson Tide's 3-7 league mark that includes four consecutive losses. Arkansas is on a five-game winning streak.

More important, Alabama has faced Arkansas this year. It wasn't pretty. The Razorbacks gave the Tide its worst loss in conference play and second most decisive of the season when the Hogs defeated Bama, 71-59, in Fayetteville on January 16.

Fueled in part by an A-Club barbecue event at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday morning that is bringing Bama fans to Tuscaloosa, the Alabama-Arkansas basketball game is a near sellout. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. CST Saturday in Coleman Coliseum with television coverage on the SEC's regional network. For ticket information go to rolltide.com.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "There have been a lot of changes for both teams, but any time you face an opponent you get a sense of their game plan and how they want to attack you and how you want to attack them. We'll certainly look at the first game and try to take what we can from that."

The Razorbacks are led by an Alabama native, Courtney Fortson of Montgomery. He's averaging 19.9 points per game. "He's a fierce competitor and a reat leader," Grant said.

The Tide coach said, "They've got four guys averaging double figures and are playing very good defense as a team. They've got a lot we're going to have to prepare for on both ends of the floor. I've had a chance to see a little bit of film on them since our first game and I think it starts with their defense, they're playing really well on the defensive end. Offensively, Courtney Fortson, Rotnei Clarke and the post players are getting involved and doing a good job. They're a good basketball team and a very well-coached team. They play extremely hard and with purpose."

Both teams latest losses came at Kentucky. The Razorbacks last loss on January 23. Bama had a good effort in falling by 66-55 to the Wildcats on Tuesday. It was the Tide's third game in six days. Of Alabama's 11 losses this year, seven have come against ranked opponents. The Tide has been the SEC hard luck team with three of the seven losses coming by a single point.

Asked where his team stands, Grant said, "For us it's the same as it's been from day one. We understand that we don't have a very high margin of error. We've lost some very close ball games and have lost four in a row. The thing that we've got to do is understand that it's never as good as it seems and it's never as bad as it seems. For our team, it's a matter of preparing as best we can for the game in front of us and controlling the things we can control.

"We don't live and die in moments, it's not a one-game season. We talk all year long about consistency and that's what we're trying to develop. I think our guys understand that. You'd rather go through that with wins but at the same time we're going to prepare and expect to play well and expect to win."

It's another match of offense vs. defense. Arkansas is the league's third best scoring team, averaging 75 points per game in league action. The Razorbacks have scored 80 or more in three of the last four games. Alabama is the league's top defensive team, allowing an average of just 60.89 points per game. The Tide has held SEC opponents to only 40.2 per cent shooting.

Point guard Mikhail Torrance did not start against Kentucky, but continues as Bama's top scorer at 15 points per game on 47.5 per cent shooting. Inside player JaMychal Green is the top inside player with 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Freshman Tony Mitchell has been the brightest spot for Alabama in recent games. He had a team-high 13 against Kentucky and is averaging 13 points and 7 rebounds per game over the past three games.

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