When Arkansas was ahead by 41-19 early on in the second half in its own building Wednesday night, it appeared that Razorbacks' game at Ole Miss on Saturday might end up being for an NIT bid after all.
But that was before Alabama – sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble – all but slammed that postseason door shut with a majestic comeback that resulted in a 72-68 overtime win over the Razorbacks before a stunned crowd of 15,626 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
Chuck Davis had 18 points and Kennedy Winston 17 as the Crimson Tide (16-10, 8-7) won a game that was crucial to their NCAA Tournament hopes by rallying from the 22-point deficit in the second half.
Alabama, which remains tied with LSU for second in the SEC West five games behind division champ Mississippi State, won despite losing a five-point lead in overtime and not scoring for over 10 minutes at one point in the game.
"I am tremendously proud of this team," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. "We had a phenomenal finish…We never thought it was over. We never laid down and quit playing. We just needed to generate energy and we did."
Jonathon "Pookie" Modica had all of his team-high 17 points in the second half while Ronnie Brewer added 12 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists and Matt Jones and Olu Famutimi 10 points each in the loss for Arkansas (12-14, 4-11).
It was the sixth loss at home this season and a second one in overtime this campaign at Bud Walton Arena for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas hit 14-of-18 free throws in the game, but made just seven field goals in the second half.
"We gave it our best, but we came up short," an obviously dejected Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said searching for some positive words to say after the loss. "I told our guys in the locker room that sometimes in life you come up short even when you give it your best."
Modica's 3-pointer that would have tied it rimmed in and out with 2.2 second left and left the Razorbacks needing to win its next three games – at Ole Miss on Saturday and two in the SEC Tournament – to have any chance at post season play.
"We still have the opportunity to go on the road at Ole Miss and get a win and then go to the SEC Tournament and to try and pick up a few wins there. We need to rally the troops with the right mindset. It will be tough, but we have to prepare."
The game went into overtime when Alabama's 5-8 Antoine Pettway – the littlest guy on the floor – hit the biggest shot when he netted a 3-pointer with eight seconds left in regulation to tie it 63-63 and complete the comeback.
"Antoine made that huge three-point shot," Gottfried said. "He is a beautiful person who deserved to make that shot. He is a guy who always wants to win and deserves to win. I was so happy for him."
Arkansas, which shot 43 percent from the field and made 6-of-20 3-point attempts, still had a chance to win in regulation but Modica slipped down before getting off a shot.
Alabama jumped out to 68-63 lead in overtime, but Eric Ferguson's long 3-pointer and Modica's drive tied it at 68-68 with 1:18 remaining.
Winston missed two free throws, but an Arkansas turnover led to him swishing a 15-footer with 28 seconds left and put his team up 70-68.
Fifth-year Arkansas guard Charles Tatum, one of three Razorback seniors along with Billy Pharis and Jamar Blackmon who were playing what is likely the last home game of their careers, had nine points to spark his team early on.
It appeared that a possible storybook finish for Tatum might play itself out when he launched a 3-pointer from the left corner that would have given Arkansas a lead with less than 20 seconds left, but it came up short.
All 15 of the shots Tatum has made this season while playing sparingly have been 3-pointers.
"We were playing so well that you don't stop to see them coming back," Tatum said. "We would get three and that would get five points. Next thing you know the lead is down. We played a good 33 minutes and then Alabama is back in it. It's just bitter losing a game like this in the last game here as a senior."
Emmett Thomas added 11 points, Ernest Shelton 10 and Pettway nine as Alabama, which won the board battle 36-29, swept the series from a Razorback squad that lost leads in both games.
"We gave it our all and fought to the finish," Brewer said. "We got away from what we were working on in the second half…We had the game in our hands."
Jones had 10 points , Tatum 9 and Brewer 7 as Arkansas raced out to a 34-19 lead at half and pushed that to 41-19 lead just into the second half.
A pressing defense helped force 16 turnovers from Alabama.
But Alabama – whose 10-minute scoreless drought lasted from the first half into the second – came roaring back as Arkansas watched its lead get cut to one twice in the final two minutes.
The Razorbacks had just two points on two free throws in a six-minute span late, but still looked like it might win without the overtime when Eric Ferguson hit two free throws with 19 seconds .
But Pettway's bomb insured there would be some extra action and enhanced Saturday's home game with SEC West champs Mississippi State, a team who suffered one of its two losses this season to Alabama, but who has not lost a road game this season.
All that happened after Gottfried apparently lit his team up in the locker room at halftime.
"Coach Gottfried came in at halftime and really lit into us," Pettway said. "He told us we were playing soft. After that we came out and had a tremendous team effort and ended up coming out on top."
Arkansas now must go to Ole Miss (12-14 4-11) on Saturday for a 2 p.m. game with the Razorbacks, Rebels and Auburn all tied for fourth – or the basement however you look at it – heading into the weekend.
They could all still be the fourth, fifth or sixth seed in next week's SEC event.
LSU scored just 10 points in the first half in its first game since Jaime Lloreda left the team, but then rallied to whip Ole Miss 58-45 on Wednesday.
"We have to find something positive to take out of this game," Jones said. "We had this happen before at Auburn. We needed five or 10 more points to put them away. Those close games will become victories sometime soon."
Alabama 72, Arkansas 68
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