It Was A Tale Of Two Halves

For 20 minutes, it appeared the Alabama basketball team has met its enemy. And its name was: Alabama. There are many ways to lose a basketball game, and most were on display Saturday afternoon at Coleman Coliseum. In the first half, Alabama put on that clinic. In the final 20 minutes, the Hogs from Fayetteville conducted their own clinic, with a new title: How to blow a road game in the SEC.

"I challenged them at the half," said Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. "There were a lot of things I was displeased with, and it had a lot do with our willingness to compete, and our ability to handle pressure. I thought our guys responded."

There's an adage that says, "Statistics are for losers." Well, on this day, that may not have been the case. What it was, was a tale of two halves. On the floor, and on the stat sheet. Bama won the game, 73-68, because it won the second half, 44-30.


Let's start with turnovers. Just before the half, Alabama had the ball down seven points with a chance to cut into Arkansas's lead. Senior guard Mikhail Torrance was stripped of the ball, resulting in a Hogs' basket and 38-29 halftime lead by the visitors. Bama had 11 turnovers in the first half, but gave the ball up only five more times in the final 20 minutes. That's big.

"We showed a lot of fight, and a lot of heart," said Grant.

Let's continue with defense. Or, to be more specific, lack of same. The Hogs hit a blistering 40 per cent of their first-half 3-point field goal attempts, connecting on 6-of-15. In the final 20 minutes, the Hogs got off only six tries behind the arc and made two. Conclusion: better perimeter defense by Alabama.

"I thought in the first half we were late, and not alert," said Grant. "They were getting some good looks against us, and we weren't rotating. From that point forward, I thought our guys did a better job, defensively. Our guys did a great job of being aggressive."

Said Senario Hillman: "Everybody just stuck with the game plan, and that made it tough for them to score."

Then, we have the category of "hustle stats." Here you go: In the first half, Arkansas had a 15-6 edge in points off turnovers, but over the final 20 minutes Bama led in that category, 11-5. Arkansas led 6-3 in steals in the first half, but Bama led 3-1 in the second.

Arkansas native Anthony Brock was venom to his home-state team, scoring 10 points, hitting a big three-pointer with 2:09 left and icing the game with a pair of free throws with six seconds left. His trey gave Bama a 67-65 lead after the Hogs had briefly gone back on top,

"It was a good shot. It was a rhythm shot, and

one he was capable of making," said Grant.

"Bigger than that, was the defense (Brock) played on Courtney Fortson," the coach added.

Fortson, who hails from Montgomery, scored 18 points to lead Arkansas, but was only 5-17 from the floor. Of his 18, only six came after the break, the last two an uncontested layup after the issue was decided.

"We knew we'd have to do a great job on him, if were going to have a chance to win," said Grant. "I thought we were effective in the way we guarded him, because of the huge impact he has for their team."

Said Fortson: "It was very disappointing to lose focus, away from home. It's really frustrating, to have them take it from us. We could have won this game, very easily."

All game, Bama did a better job of getting to the foul line, and making shots. The Tide was 22-29 for the game.

"Our guys did a great job of getting there, and making them count," said Grant.

Maybe having Mo Williams around for moral support was some help. The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard was on hand to cheer on his former team during the NBA's All-Star break. Williams spoke to the crowd during a first-half time-out.

Problem: he wasn't able to play Saturday. In the second half, Bama didn't need him.

If this Alabama basketball team, now 14-11, 4-7 in the SEC, is to build on this win, it will have to make drastic improvements in all the above categories. The next chance to do so comes in a week when the Tide travels to Georgia, a very tough team at home. Tip-off at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens in set for 4 p.m EST, 3 p.m. central time. SEC-TV will carry the game.

Said Grant: "Getting a win, and breaking a losing streak for our team, is a positive thing, as we head forward."

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