Steele Steals It From Hogs

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama guard Ronald Steele made a three-point play with 3.6 seconds left in overtime Wednesday night, enabling the Tide to retrieve a game it seemingly had lost.

Disappointed Arkansas coach Stan Heath, after complimenting both teams' play, vented about the disparity in free throws.

"It's hard to win on the road when it's 33 to 9 in free throws," Heath said.

Alabama (10-6, 3-1 in the Southeastern Conference) made 22 of 33 free throws while Arkansas made 5 of 9.

"If I say (any more), it will cost me," Heath said.

Later, though, he said, "It sucks, to be flat-out honest with you. You just want things to be fair."

Arkansas, as if allergic to prosperity, let a 63-54 lead with under five minutes left evaporate into a 67-67 tie at the end of regulation.

Steele scored 25 points, outdoing Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer (22 points, 9 rebounds).

A mostly loud crowd of 10,872 in Coleman Coliseum did what it could to discourage the Razorbacks, who have lost 31 of their last 33 Southeastern Conference road tilts, including 24 of 26 under Heath.

In a game that featured a remarkable number of dueling slam follows, Arkansas (12-5, 1-3 SEC) held its own underneath, matching Alabama's 20 offensive rebounds and getting outboarded just 46-45.

"I love the way we played," Heath said. "If we play like that on the road, we're going to win quite a few games. We showed a lot of heart and character."

Illustrative of just how hard it is to win a league road game is that Arkansas was whistled for 20 fouls to Alabama's seven in the first 39 minutes of the game.

With Arkansas up 63-54, Hogs forward Charles Thomas was grabbed after nearly making a steal, lost the ball and Jean Felix hit a 3-pointer for Alabama.

The Hogs still seemed in good shape with a 67-64 lead until Dontell Jefferson fouled Steele on a 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds left and Steele made all three free throws to tie it at 67.

"That was a huge play by Steele, first of all to draw the foul and then to make all three free throws," said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried.

But Heath said, "It's hard to win when you defend a play very well and the kid gets three free throws."

With 5.3 ticks left and Arkansas about to begin a final foray in the frontcourt, Heath called a timeout that seemed to frustrate Brewer.

The timeout necessitated an inbounds pass, which Jefferson threw a bit wide for Brewer. By the time Brewer corralled it and made a move, he had to shoot a 28-footer which narrowly missed at the buzzer.

Arkansas struck first in overtime on a jumper by Brewer, but Alabama quickly went up 74-69 as Richard Hendrix scored, Steele made a 3-pointer and Alonzo Gee a dunk. The Hogs shrugged and eventually tied it at 75 on Eric Ferguson's 12-footer with 1:03 left.

But persistent work on the offensive glass gave Alabama the last good shot, and Steele seized it after he beat Ferguson on the dribble.

"I just tried to drive in there until they stopped me, and then I was going to pass the ball," Steele said. "But I saw a crack in the defense and no one ever stopped me."

Jefferson came across and fouled, and Steele completed the three-point play.

Brewer's desperation halfcourt shot hit the top of the backboard at the buzzer.

"A lot of people write us off," said Alabama forward Jermareo Davidson, who had 19 points and 9 rebounds. "Fans started leaving at the end (of regulation), but somebody probably stopped them in the lobby."

Hendrix, who had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Alabama, said, "We knew Arkansas' big men were in foul trouble in the second half and they would have to play more timidly."

Darian Townes scored 17 points and Charles Thomas 12 for Arkansas. Steven Hill (6 points, 7 blocked shots) fouled out with 1:31 left in overtime.

The Razorbacks will try again on Saturday at Auburn.

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