Energized Hogs Romp

Arkansas had an easy time with Alabama in the SEC opener. The Hogs put the pressure on the Tide and the visitors wilted.

Here's hoping that the bank isn't empty at Alabama after the hiring of Nick Saban. Hopefully, the Crimson Tide basketball team has enough funds to get home.

Alabama might not be out of money, but the basketball team appeared to be out of energy, defense and the ability to make a field goal when it entered Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.

Arkansas had something to do with all of that. The Hogs took advantage of a sub-par point guard Ronald Steele to romp to an 88-61 victory in the SEC opener for both teams.

Steele, battling back from knee and ankle injuries, didn't look like the same player who sailed through the Arkansas defense twice last year. He was a difference maker last year, but hasn't been that of late. Plus, all-star forward Jermareo Davidson was intimidated by an Arkansas block party.

More than anything else, the Tide could not match the Hogs' energy either at the start or any point during the game.

"Pick your point in the game, they had a high level of energy and we did not," said Mark Gottfried, Alabama coach. "We weren't very good and they were outstanding. You can look at 12 or 15 different points in the game and we were pretty crappy in all of them."

The Hogs were pumped up to start the game after players watched an ESPN college hoops show earlier in the day that showed them no respect.

"Somebody said on ESPN that we were going to get beat 20 at home," UA junior Sonny Weems said. "I know that got us all fired up."

UA coach Stan Heath said he didn't hear the exact predictions, but saw that show, too.

"We are usually pretty good here at home," Heath said. "I watched that and all three of the announcers picked Alabama. I guess our guys took that to heart."

Heath called it the Hogs' "most complete defensive game" in his five seasons as coach in the Ozarks.

"I know Steele isn't full speed," Heath said. "We've seen him just explode past us and he can't do that right now. I'm sure he'll be back to that later this year when we see them there.

"But today Gary Ervin did a great job on him. It starts there. We had pressure on the peremiter. I thought Sonny Weems and Patrick Beverley did a great job of providing ball pressure outside, too. If you can't get a good look inside, then it's hard to get the ball into their big men. That's what we did well today.

"Then, I thought Steven Hill and Charles Thomas did a great job of blocking shots and make them rethink even going inside."

Weems was the offensive catalyst in the Hogs' 20-2 start.

"I knew right away from the first shot that I was going to have a good shooting day," he said. "I wanted to take good shots and be aggressive."

He beat the Tide down the floor for some easy baskets, too.

"I not only consider myself a basketball player, but a track star," he said. "If I can beat my man down the floor, I can get easy buckets for my team."

Heath said Beverley played through a sore thumb after sustaining a dislocated thumb early in the Hogs' last game.

"He dislocated it on his shooting hand and spent the last two days in the training room," Heath said. "He wasn't full speed, but he was close. He'll be fully recovered by our next game."

Beverley was excited from the start. At one point, he reached out to give his coach a hard slap to his hand and then swung around and patted Heath hard on the butt. That brought a smile to Heath and laughter on the UA bench.

"He's got a lot of energy," Heath said. "We have to calm him down at times. I thought his defense was very good on the ball today. He disrupted things and slapped some balls loose that provided some turnovers."

The stat sheet was full of lopsided numbers in favor of the Hogs. One of the key numbers was at turnover where Alabama had 15 and Arkansas a season low 7 turnovers.

"We can't put pressure on people right now," Gottfried said. "You saw Steele. He just doesn't have any quickness to do that right now. We are limited in the way we can defend.

"But you have to be more intense than we were today. We didn't have the same level of intensity as Arkansas."

It was obvious that the Tide's defense didn't give the Hogs any trouble. They shot 51 percent for the game, 35 percent from the 3-point line. The Hogs had an easy time feeding the post, scoring 48 points in the paint.

"We got a big lift inside from Darian Townes and we also got a solid game from Charles Thomas inside," Heath said. "We were worried about what they might do to us inside, but our defense was very solid. I thought Sonny Weems did a great job on (Alonzo) Gee. He still got five offensive rebounds, but Sonny was boxing him out."

Gee led the Tide with 14 points, but a lot of it came from the line where he was 6 of 9. He made just 4 of 12 shots from the field.

The only other Bama player in double figures was Pine Bluff native Mykal Riley with 11, but he could not handle Beverley or Weems when they were matched up. Both Weems and Beverley scored 18 points.

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