Arkansas 65, Alabama 63

Despite a spectacular effort from Alabama point guard Ronald Steele, Arkansas rallies from 18 down in the second half to down the Crimson Tide 65-63 in an exciting contest played before 18,448 fans at Bud Walton Arena, an ESPN national television and recruits Sonny Weems and Ramar Smith.

Alabama's Ronald Steele was spectacular while scoring a career-high 29 points and did everything he could single-handedly on national television Wednesday night to steal away the University of Arkansas' possible NCAA Tournament berth.

But down 18 points with 18 minutes to go, the Razorbacks and over 18,000 of their closest friends took it back.

Darian Townes had 15 points to lead five Razorbacks in double figures and he, Charles Thomas, Jonathon  Modica, Ronnie Brewer and Eric  Ferguson all had big shots late as Arkansas rallied past Alabama 65-63 before 18,448 fans at Bud Walton and an ESPN viewing audience.

"This feels awesome," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "Somebody must be looking out for us. We sure didn't look good in that first half, but I can't say enough about the heart and fight both our players and our fans showed. It was a such a great combined effort."

Alabama coach Mark Gottfried, whose team was coming off a huge 92-79 home win over SEC leading Tennessee on Saturday, was obviously disappointed that the game ended in a loss for the Crimson Tide (15-10, 8-5), who now lead Arkansas by a game for second in the SEC West.

Alabama had rallied from 13 down in the second half to beat Arkansas 78-75 in overtime in the team's first meeting this season with the script being flipped in Wednesday night's game.

"We played our hearts out tonight," Gottfried said. "This is a tough loss. It hurts, but we just have to move on. It's all just one game. That's what we preach. Even when we beat Tennessee, it was just one game."

Brewer added 12, Modica 11, Thomas and Ferguson 10 each and freshman point guard Sean McCurdy 5 assists in 12 minutes as the Razorbacks (18-8, 7-6) got over the .500 for the first time in league play this season - and this late in Heath's four-year career at Arkansas.

It also added momentum to Saturday's 85-81 overtime home win over No. 7 Florida.

But this one was done in much tougher fashion seeing as how Alabama led 42-24 just over a minute into the second half.

"We never, never, never gave up," Heath said. "We kept fighting and the fans were incredible. This was a hard-nosed game and we finished it. This game is one of the best I have ever been a part of."

Steele, who was a ridiculous 7 of 8 from 3-point range in the game, gave Alabama it's last lead of the game when he nailed one from deep to put the Crimson Tide up 63-62 with 36.8 seconds left in the game.

But Brewer drove the right side of he line, drew Jermareo Davidson's fifth foul and watched his shot bank in as he was falling to the floor.

He then hit the free throw to put Arkansas up 65-63.

"We just wanted to get a good shot," Brewer said. "I faked and pulled it back out, then I felt I had a lane to the basket. When I saw it was me against (Davidson), I knew I wasn't going to lose."

That still left Steele time to pull off a game winner, but Arkansas center Steven Hill altered Steele's shot on a drive and the defense kept Evan Brock from getting off a good rebound shot to give the home team the victory.

"They came out pumped up and in the second half we came back strong," Townes said. "They were a little fatigued and us coming back just showed how tough we are. I wanted to be aggressive and get them in foul trouble. We played aggressive and the momentum started to shifting our way. We scored on big possessions and played good defense down the stretch."

Felix had 12 points and Davidson 10 for Alabama, who shot 44.2 percent from the field, 57.9 percent from 3-point range and 85.7 percent from the line, but did have 19 turnovers to Arkansas' 9.

But they only got 7 free throws on Wednesday night while Arkansas was shooting 19 - a vast difference from the first game this season when the Crimson Tide shot 33 and the Razorbacks' just 9.

"We were just playing hard and feeding off the crowd," Thomas said.

Arkansas, which now has a big game at Tennessee on Saturday, found itself down 42-24 on Steele's deep 3-pointer with 18:39 left in the game.

it was still down 13 with just over 10 minutes left before a 9-0 run brought the crowd alive and suddenly on Brewer's 3-pointer had gotten the Razorbacks within 51-47 with 8:05 left.

But recreating his lean in 3-point shot - this time on Eric Ferguson, Steele did the same thing he did to Dontell Jefferson and swished all three free throws just as he did to get his team into overtime in the earlier game in Tuscaloosa.

His trio got Alabama up by 54-47 and he later hit a fast break 3-pointer that had the appearance of a rally killer at the 5:48 mark to put his team up 57-49.

"Ronald Steele was terrific tonight," Gottfried said. "Even his last shot is a shot that we can't be disappointed with. It just didn't go in, but we almost had the tip. This is a tough environement. Arkansas had its back up against the wall and they came through."

Indeed Arkansas scored 16 of the game's final 22 points - including scoring the game's next 10 points on run that began with Modica's 3-pointer and a free throw soon afterwards.

Brewer followed Hill's steal with a dunk and Townes scored inside to tie it and then a Townes block leading to Thomas' tip-in put Arkansas ahead 59-57 with 1:33 remaining.

Felix and Eric Ferguson then traded 3-pointers before Steele buried his to set up Brewer's heroics and the final defensive stand started when Hill stood his ground and went straight up.

"He is always good but he is really, really incredible against us," Heath said. "He is a special player, but he is even better than that when he plays us. We knew he would get the ball in the final seconds. He got the ball, but Steven was down there and made a great prescence for us."

Steele, 9 of 14 overall from the field and 4-of-5 from the line with one asisst and 5 turnovers, thought he had a shot to win it.

"I wanted to dive to the basket and try to score and if not get a putback, but it felt short," Steele said. "Arkansas did a great job down the stretch and that's what a good team does to win."

Alabama dominated the first half except for one first-half stretch where the Razorabcks rallied from a 20-6 deficit.

That coincided with both Townes and Hill being in the game at the same time and the Razorbacks scoring nine unanswered points during that turned into a 13-2 run that got the crowd back into the ballgame.

The spree culminated with Brewer nailing a pair of free throws at the 7:33 mark that got Arkansas within 22-19.

But Alabama responded with six straight points and a 15-5 run, capped by Davidson's 15-footer that surged the Crimson Tide ahead 37-24 with 1:31 left.

Hill kept the deficit from being greater by blocking two of Davidson' shot on consecutive trips down the floor in the last minute before intermission.

"In the first half we were just clustered offensively and then in the second half we finally got in sync. I wasn't pleased with our defense in the first either. They kept getting second and third chances. The second half was different for us. We disrupted them and took them out of their rhythm."

It also helped greatly that Arkansas - who was down 10-1 in rebounding at one point and 22-12 at the half - got back within 33-27 by game's end on the boards.

"Darian and Steven and Charles and the rest of the guys just got a lot tougher and got it done," Heath said. "I have got to give them a lot of credit."

Arkansas will now try to get itself a resume-enhacing road win when it travels to Tennessee (19-4, 10-2), who travels to Florida on Wednesday night.

"Now is the time to go get us one on the road," Heath said. "It's going to be a tough one, but we're going to have our best effort. I just feel that."



Arkansas guard Sean McCurdy defends Alabama star Ronald Steele.



Razorback guard Ronnie Brewer tries to make a move on Alabama'S Jean Felix



Arkansas guards Eric Ferguson and Ronnie Brewer force a turnover from Alabama's Brandon Hollinger.


Hawgs Daily Top Stories