A New Tide Challenge

Alabama (17-9, 6-6) will have a different look when it arrives in Fayetteville for a Thursday night game than it did in a win over Arkansas (17-10, 5-7) earlier this season in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama may be without its top two scorers when it arrives at Bud Walton Arena on Thursday night, but it won't be void of talent – or height for that matter.

Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant announced Tuesday that previously suspended senior forward JaMychal Green (14.1, 7.2) would not play on Thursday night at Arkansas in a 6 p.m. game set to be televised by ESPN.

"We'll see how the week goes this week, and we'll make some decisions after Thursday," Grant said in noting that Green would not play against the Razorbacks.

Grant has previously suspended junior Tony Mitchell (13.1, 7.0) for the rest of the season after first suspending him for four games.

"We expect them to come out and fight just as hard or even harder if they did have those two guys," noted B.J. Young, Arkansas' freshman guard and leading scorer at 15.1 points per game. "They probably feel like they have something to prove since those guys are not playing. We expect they'll come bring their best shot and we expect them to take our best shot, too."

Alabama (17-9, 6-6) has won four of six games coming into contest with Arkansas (17-10, 5-7), who has lost four of its last five after a 16-6 start.

Razorback head coach Mike Anderson notes that sophomore point guard Trevor Releford – 12.2 points and a SEC-leading 56 steals - is still the key for the visitors.

"I think the key player on that basketball team at this point in time is Trevor Releford," Anderson said. "Really crafty, smart, just a clever basketball player. To me, they kind of go as he goes. They have some young guys that are starting to play for them."

Those young guys include 6-6 freshman Rodney Cooper – who had a career-high 28 recently against LSU – and sophomore big men Moussa Gueye (7-0, 280) – who had six blocks against Tennessee - and Carl Engstrom (7-1, 275).

None of those three played a significant role when Releford had 18 points and Green and Mitchell combined for 25 points and 14 rebounds in the Crimson Tide's 72-66 home win over the Razorbacks last month.

""Well, Moussa is a guy, he had an impact on the last game, six blocked shots and probably scored one field goal," Anderson said. "The guy that's really starting to play well I think is Engstrom. If you look at his stat line, he's probably I think in the last three to four games, I think he's probably averaging almost 8-9 points a game and probably 6-7 rebounds. He's a big kid.

"The Cooper kid, now he has an opportunity to shine…" Anderson added. "So some other guys have an opportunity to step up. But I want to see us come out and hopefully get off to a good start and defend and play with the energy that we've been playing with, especially here. See if we can kind of get our rhythm and start playing some good basketball."

Anderson said he hopes the Razorbacks can get Alabama in a up-tempo game and make those 7-footers run the floor instead of making it a half-court game.

The Crimson Tide took down Tennessee 62-50 on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

"Well, we hope that can play to our advantage," Anderson said. "They've got size. Obviously if we just stay and play halfcourt that matches up with them. But we've got to turn the game to the tempo we want to play. We'll see. They've got some size. They're doing a good job of patrolling the lane."

Arkansas had won its first 17 home games before a humbling 98-68 loss to No. 14 Florida on Saturday.

While the Gators shot the ball extremely well, it also appeared the Razorbacks were heavy-legged.

That could mean more minutes for walk ons Brandon Mitchell and Kikko Haydar for a team that has been playing with only eight healthy scholarship players for a month.

"I think sometimes fatigue is a factor and it might be even with our guys fatiguing now with having only eight guys, eight scholarship guys for a period,' Anderson said. "So now we've got to trust our bench. You'll see Brandon out there a few more minutes. Kikko out there for a few more minutes, so he can give these guys some breathers."

The Razorbacks would certainly like to add back in senior forward Michael Sanchez, who has missed the last three games with a shouder injury.

Fellow senior forward Marvell Waithe said fans likely don't realize how important Sanchez is to the team.

"A lot of people don't realize how big he is for our team," Waithe said. "Having a guy like that, a bruiser, a guy that can do the blue-collar stuff and get dirty, a lot of people don't realize how important this is for a team. I can't wait to have him back."

Anderson noted that Monday's practice lasted just 43 minutes and Waithe noted the coach knows exactly what he is doing.

"He's been doing this for 30 years, so he knows what he's doing," Waithe said. "Practice is a little bit shorter, but we get what we need to get done. We have three games in six days, so it's crucial that we stay fresh, and he's doing a great job of keeping us that way."

Arkansas has skidded to the finish line in each of the past four seasons and that is not something that Anderson wants to see in his first season at the helm of the Razorbacks.

"I think it's important for us to (finish strong)," Anderson said. "The team's I've been associated with, they've played some of their better basketball down the stretch. So this is a time where we kind of unleash and just go play. That's what I expect from our guys: to go out and play, compete and you'll see hopefully some good things take place for them.

"We've been good at home," Anderson added. "The time you want to get on a run is now. Every team I've been associated with, this is the time they've played some of their better basketball."

While he wasn't here for the previous collapses, Young made it clear he has no intention of having one this season.

"It's very important to get this next win under our belt and stop the bleeding before we get too far down the line," Young said. "We are still confident as a team and we are keeping our heads together and listening to Coach Anderson. We are not really worried."

Waithe echoed those sentiments as Arkansas enters the last four games of its regular season.

"It's critical, it's crucial," Waithe said. "Every game definitely counts now, and everybody knows that. There's a sense of urgency in the locker room because it's critical with the amount of games we have left."


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