Arkansas Unravels Under Bama Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Arkansas forward Olu Famutimi said the Razorbacks were anticipating Alabama's full-court press after coach Stan Heath warned his team it would be unleashed at some point during Wednesday night's game.

The problem was, the Razorbacks couldn't figure out a way to handle it.

Alabama, which played without backup guards Albert Weber and Justin Jonus, crippled the deeper Hogs with a well-timed press in the second half of its 72-63 win in Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide (20-4, 9-2 in Southeastern Conference), which used only seven players, mustered energy to force 16 turnovers -- six during a five-minute stretch -- to claim its 12th consecutive home win.

"I thought we were too cautious against the press and that was the initial thing," Heath said. "(The press) took us out of our rhythm. I would definitely say that it affected the way we were playing."

It was apparent in the second half, when Arkansas trailed 41-39 before guard Ronnie Brewer threw the ball away looking for center Darian Townes with 16:25 left. The turnover had nothing to do with Alabama's press, but kicked off of an ugly five-minutes in which the Hogs committed six turnovers in nine possessions.

Before it was over, Alabama forced Arkansas into a 10-second violation, caused point guard Eric  Ferguson to travel and intercepted an errant Famutimi pass. Alabama laid claim to a 53-44 lead before the Razorbacks finally settled down.

"That was a major breakdown right there," said Famutimi, who scored 9 points but committed three turnovers. "(The press) rattled us a little bit. But at the same time we know we're better than that.

"We turned it over just not thinking or really being aggressive on their press."

The tentativeness wiped out an impressive first-half effort in which the Razorbacks fell behind 28-16, but battled back to hold a 34-33 halftime lead. Arkansas found success against Alabama's man-to-man defense, relying on the one-on-one ability of guard Jonathon  Modica (14 first-half points) and sharp 3-point shooting (6 of 10).

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said the Crimson Tide curbed Arkansas' outburst by giving the Hogs a different look after the break. Gottfried said two lanky reserves, 6-foot-8 forward Evan Brock and 6-foot-7 forward Jean Felix, gave Alabama important minutes off the bench as the Tide pressed and settled into a stiff zone defense.

"We were having a hard time guarding them," Gottfried said. "I thought about (pressing) in the first half. But I didn't want them to see it in the first half."

Alabama guard Kennedy Winston said: "The press loosened things up," Alabama forward Kennedy Winston said. "Brock has had great energy and has been the X-factor the last two games, causing turnovers and rebounding. That's what we need."

In all, the Hogs committed seven turnovers in the second half that led to seven Alabama points. Alabama scored 20 points off 16 Arkansas turnovers in the game.

Now, Brewer said the Hogs will have to be prepared to face a similar press when Arkansas travels to Vanderbilt on Saturday night.

"A lot of teams will look at the tape and see that it bothered us in this game and they might try to press the next game," Brewer said. "So we've got to get better."

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