Nolan Richardson Takes Charge
Say what you want, but Nolan Richardson sent a message to the team tonight. Play defense and you can win basketball games. Alabama got few good looks tonight and the help-side defense was awesome from start to finish. They didn't gamble. They stayed in front of the man they were guarding and went hard to the glass.
Alabama helped with awful shooting. Carl Baker's defense against Rod Grizzard was out of the text book. Larry Satchell, except for a few bonehead fouls and a couple of ill-advised shots, played his best game as a Razorback.
T. J. Cleveland still can't throw it in the ocean, but he gave the Hogs a steady game at the point and got the ball to Chuck Tatum.
Who knows if this can be repeated, but it was sure fun to watch for one night.
I sat on press row and listened to the experts gripe about this starting lineup even when the Hogs were up by 11-7. They were making fun of the lineup until about a minute was left in the first half, and then they shut up for the rest of the game, realizing that the coach had pulled something out of his magic hat.
Chuck Tatum finished with 20 points, three steals and only two turnovers in 33 minutes. T. J. Cleveland had 9 points and four assists in 33 minutes. Carl Baker had 8 points, 7 rebounds in 34 minutes.
Nolan promised that Jannero Pargo would sit, and he did just that. He was 1 for 1 in his 7 minutes.
The Best Player on the Court?
"Alabama is a super basketball team," Nolan Richardson said. "They are one of the best teams around. Their record proves that. They are No. 5 and they deserve that. We played a very patient offensive game. Each week, we are trying to fix the leaks, which is hard to do with seven guards. We had to find a way to put Alonzo Lane and Larry Satchell on the floor at the same time.
"I started my blue collar offense tonight. Blue-collar players put defense first. They think shoot second. You don't need as many players when you play the type game we played tonight.
"Charles Tatum was the bes player on the court tonight. Baker smothered Grizzard. I don't think Rod made a field goal. Matt Jones is the ultimate around the basket. I don't think there is a kid that can guard Matt. He has a tremendous spin. He knows the game of basketball.
"I appreciate our fans. They stuck b ehind us while we have been having a terrible season. Now we are looking forward to Kentucky. We are going down the stretch with our backs against the wall and we are fighting hard."
Starting Lineup Came Up Big
"We tried that before this year, but it didn't work like it did tonight," Nolan Richardson said. "They bought into the idea that you win with your defense. We tried to pressure Alabama at Tuscaloosa, and they got in a rhythm. We didn't want that tonight. We wanted to keep Mo Williams from getting into a rhythm.
"What I want to see is the guys playing defense. Cleveland, Tatum, Baker, Satchell, Lane and Matt Jones played defense tonight and they got the most time. We didn't pressure, so we could let them play more minutes. Some of the others can get minutes if they buy into it. Dean can play defense like that tonight, but he was settling for his jumper. Tatum attacked the glass and did more than just shoot his jumper. Dean can play like that, too.
"It was about buying into guarding someone. We talked about that in practice and before the game. Our pressure on the ball made it easier on our post defense. And, Baker limited the touches for Grizzard and we got great help with our guards. When Grizzard caught it, Baker was right up under him and wouldn't let him put it on the floor."
17,478 Vocal Hog Fans
Nolan complimented the fans.
"I appreciate our fans," he said. "They stuck behind us while we have been having a terrible season. Now we are looking foward to Kentucky. We are going down the stretch with our backs against the wall and we are fighting hard."
Larry Satchell said Nolan was inspirational in the pre-game talk.
"He said he wanted us to focus on executing our offense and our defense, and to focus on playing to win," he said. "To be honest, he talked us up. He inspired us. It was a level-headed talk. He made sure that we knew that there was not going to be any quit in us the rest of the way and that this season was far from over. He said if we win games, good things will happen. We believe him. We went out to play hard tonight and to play a winning style of game. It was about playing hard and smart and keeping our concentration from start to finish."
Carl Baker's Defense
Alabama's Rod Grizzard, held without a field goal, said, "I settled for tough shots, and should have been patient. Give Carl Baker credit. He stayed after me all night long. Baker played really well defensively. He didn't let me see it in the first half and I never got my game going. He made me force some shots that I didn't really want to take."
"Charles Tatum hurt us in the first half. His shooting was good. Then, they have some other weapons, too. They didn't even use them because of the way he was playing. Give him credit."
And, despite playing 34 minutes, Carl Baker wanted even more action. Baker said he never raised his hand once for a breather.
"I got tired twice, but I never thought about asking to go out," Baker said. "It was a game where we had some of their players shut down. If you sit down, they may find it and then they are really tough to stop. Grizzard never got off and I didn't want to put stopping him on anyone else. If you sit down and then he gets going, then it's tough to come back in and shut him down again. This was a game that I was not going to raise my hand to come out ... no way."
No Taunting This Time
Arkansas' players said Alabama taunted them throughout the last game that was played in Tuscaloosa.
"I know they had the right to do that because they had us down by over 30 a good deal of the game, but you don't do that when you have to go to the other team's home later in the year," T. J. Cleveland said. "Mo Williams talked trash to me down there, and Rod Grizzard really talked some smack to Carl Baker down there. We remembered that. We talked about that.
"You just can't believe the smack they talked down there. That made us play hard tonight. We got the loose balls tonight. We wanted this one."