Eric Ferguson couldn't have asked for a better look at a tying 3-point attempt in the final five seconds, but the junior guard couldn't convert to allow Alabama to escape with a precious road victory, 64-61 Tuesday at Walton Arena.
"Coach wanted me to take it and I got what I wanted," Ferguson said. "I'm really frustrated I missed. That was the shot I was supposed to take. To miss that one really hurts."
Ferguson played only five minutes in the first half after picking up three quick fouls. Arkansas coach Stan Heath pointed to his absence during the final four minutes of the first half when Alabama closed with a 10-0 run to wipe out a the Hogs 9-point lead.
"It wasn't a good game for Eric," Heath said. "I think we might have done a little better there if we had had Eric out there that last four minutes of the half. That was a stretch we showed our immaturity. We took quick shots and lost them in transition in that stretch."
It was during that Alabama run that the Hogs lost their poise and failed to find 6-10 freshman Darian Townes. The center seemed to be in perfect position on the blocks in that run.
"We had some high-low action and didn't do a good job of finding Darian," Heath said. "Our other big men have had some turnovers and I've been on them and I guess they were reluctant to make that pass, but it was there. Our guards could have done a better job of finding Darian, too. He was playing well.
"Our guards have to get it to him when he's playing like that. We were forcing the shot when we could have gotten it inside and we didn't. He was getting position and asking for the ball. We'll be working on that the next few days."
Alabama point guard Earnest Shelton said it was a matter of the Tide playing better on the perimeter and on the inside.
"Our big men covered a little better after the start of the game when Townes got the ball too easily," Shelton said. "We wanted to harass them on the perimeter so they had a tougher time seeing him and I think we did. That was our focus down the stretch in the first half and that's what we talked about at halftime, denying Townes the ball."
Ferguson said the Hogs didn't mean to go away from Townes, but he admitted they did.
"We settled for jump shots," Ferguson said. "We have to either get it to him, or attack the basket with drives. We didn't do either one very well."
Jonathon "Pookie" Modica, the Hogs' most effective offensive player down the stretch, was distraught afterwards. He thought Townes needed more touches, too.
"This hurts really bad," he said. "You can't lose at home. I just can't tell you how down I am right now. We had the crowd and to send them home disappointed really hurts me, I can tell you that for sure. I know we played hard, but we gave this one away by letting them have too many layups and dunks.
"I thought we could have done a better job of getting it to Darian. That's one thing that we have to do better."
Modica scored 11 points with five assists against zero turnovers. He hit 5 of 8 from the field.
Alabama coach Mark Gottfried was excited to escape with a road victory.
"I know where Stan Heath is right now because I've been there," Gottfried said. "He's building a program like I was a couple of years ago. You recruit good young players and you are still going to take your lumps. He's taking his lumps now. But I see what they have and they are coming. That's a good basketball team we played. I like where they are going. They are running some good stuff. It makes you feel like we beat a good team here tonight."
Ferguson Liked Last Shot
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