Slow Start Doom Alabama In SEC Opener

FAYETTEVILLE --Ronald Steele trudged slowly up the court, his sweat-soaked Alabama jersey untucked and left shoe untied.

As a stoic Steele made his way to the Alabama bench, the reality of getting blown out in the Southeastern Conference league opener was setting in.

For Steele and the No. 8 Crimson Tide, scenes like this haven't happened often.

Arkansas opened the game with a 14-0 run and kept its foot to the floorboard en route to an 88-61 victory in front of 17,935 in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.

"You've got to give them all the credit," Steele, a preseason All-American, said. "They came out and played great. Their intensity was higher than ours. They outplayed us in every part of the game."

The Crimson Tide brought a six-game winning streak into the SEC opener and with a big home game against LSU next, were looking to get off to a quick start against Arkansas.

Didn't happen.

Alabama turned the ball over three times and Arkansas 7-footer Steven Hill blocked three shots in the first 4 minutes, 54 seconds of the game. By the time Alabama's Jermareo Davidson hit a short jumper at the 14:17 mark, the Tide trailed 14-2 and were effectively taken out of the game.

Davidson, another preseason All-American, struggled throughout the game, finishing with five points on 2-of-9 shooting and played just 21 minutes.

"I took wide open shots, pretty good shots," Davidson said. "It just wasn't my night."

Steele, whose even-keel demeanor is often a steadying influence on the court, said the early deficit got the Arkansas crowd into the game and took the Tide out of it.

"In the SEC against anybody, you can't start behind like we did today," Steele said. "In a great arena like this, the crowd was into it and they (Arkansas) played unbelievable."

Alabama trailed by 24 at halftime, but started the second half with a 7-0 run that looked like the spark the Crimson Tide needed to get back in the game.

"We figured we could kind of chip away at the lead," Steele said.

But Arkansas coach Stan Heath called a quick timeout and calmed his team.

"They did a great job calling that timeout and getting back to what they were doing," Steele said. "They got back into their transition game. We just gave up too many layups."

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