TUSCALOOSA – Although it didn't make a stop in South Carolina on Wednesday night, the Steven Hill Coming Alive World Tour certainly showed up in Alabama on Saturday afternoon.
Because it did, the Razorbacks got a long-coveted road win – their first of the season and the first by a SEC Western Division team in 2007 - a sweep of its two-game regular season series and made it three wins in a row over the Crimson Tide.
But it didn't come easy.
Patrick Beverley had 19 points, Sonny Weems 16 points and 9 rebounds and the 7-foot Hill had 8 points, career-high 16 rebounds and four blocks as visiting Arkansas ran up 25-point lead in the second half and then held off No. 12 Alabama 63-57 before a crowd of 15,316 at Coleman Coliseum.
"Huge, huge win for our basketball team," noted Arkansas head coach Stan Heath, whose team was coming in off a disheartening loss at South Carolina. "I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys and the way they just bounced back when it looked like we were dead. I can't give those guys enough credit.
"They came out and really defended and played with the intensity level we've been talking about," added Heath, whose team was 0-4 on the road this season before Saturday. "We've seen it at home and they brought it on the road (today)."
Weems said enough was enough after the Razorbacks (14-7, 3-4) - who now have four wins over Top 25 teams this season - had lost four road games this season in which they had led late and five overall.
"We were fed up with the five-game losing streak," Weems said. "All we had to do was come out with intensity. It's not about beating anybody in particular. We're just trying to get a victory."
Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried - whose team was hammered 81-57 at archrival Auburn on Tuesday night - was obviously disappointed that his team lost its first home game in 11 tries this season.
"We're running in mud right now," Gottfried said. "We've got cement boots on. We have got to get it off and play."
The Razorbacks – who will be no less than a game out of first place in the SEC West by nightfall and could even be tied for the lead - led by 53-28 when Beverley hit two free throws with 9:18 left in the game.
"I realize that every time we come into this facility no lead is safe," added Heath, whose team had a big lead at Coleman Coliseum last year before losing the game in overtime. "I was hoping we would get it to 20, try to get it to 30, get as many as you can because they're good."
Alabama (15-5, 2-4) kept that from happening by using pressure to got it back into the contest.
The Crimson Tide roared back by forcing 11 Razorback turnovers – at one point scoring 21 of the game's 24 points – and eventually got within 58-53 with 1:19 remaining on Hendrix' bucket.
Hendrix had a game-high 28 points – 23 of them in the second half – and 11 rebounds.
"There was a sense of urgency," Hendrix said. "Once you are down you have got to step it up a notch. Unfortunately we could't come out in the first half with the same aggressiveness we did in the second half."
On Arkansas' next possession, Charles Thomas was flagrantly fouled going for a slam dunk – a play that resulted in him injuring his shoulder and having to be taken out of the game with 55.6 seconds left.
Freshman guard Stefan Welsh subbed for Thomas and hit one of two free throws and then Beverley nailed a couple and Ervin a freebie to push the lead back to a comfortable 62-53 with 38.6 seconds left.
Arkansas did not have a field goal from Ervin's slam with 7:41 remaining until – the end of the game.
"We're disappointed, but maybe we found our defense today that we have been hunting for," Gottfried said. "That's something that's a positive."
Hill had a career high 15 points and 7 rebounds in a loss to Georgia and then topped that with 16 points and 8 rebounds last Saturday in a win over LSU.
He had just 5 points and 2 rebounds in a loss at South Carolina on Wednesday night, but was a force early on against the Crimson Tide with 8 rebounds midway through the first half on Saturday.
Hill had 12 by halftime as Arkansas had zipped out to a 31-18 lead.
"It's just a matter of me going out and playing hard and deciding I am going to get more rebounds," Hill said. "Coach Heath sit me down recently and said that I was a 7-footer and three rebounds was just unacceptable. That is the part of my game I have been most pleased with lately."
The Razorbacks blew that lead out to 51-27 when Hill outraced everybody down court for a slam with 10:50 left that sent some of the Crimson Tide faithful to the exit.
"The biggest thing was how we guarded and how well we defended - especially in that first half," Heath said."That first half was an incredible effort by our basketball team."
Ervin had 8 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 turnovers and Thomas 6 points.
Jamareo Davidson added 12 points for Bama, who fell down 14-0 in the first game of the season with Arkansas – an 88-61 Razorback win - and 14-2 in this contest.
The Crimson Tide also fell behind 15-0 to visiting Georgia last week before rallying to win at the buzzer.
"We need to come out with a spark or some energy," Davidson said. "We have to find something in ourselves to get us going."
Arkansas shot 41.5 percent for the game from the field while Alabama was at a 37.3 percent clip.
The Razorbacks outrebounded the Crimson Tide 43-30 and also hit 15-of-21 free throws and 4 of its 8 3-pointers.
Arkansas will not play again until it hosts Kentucky next Saturday at Bud Walton Arena in a 12:05 p.m. game that will be televised by Lincoln Financial.
Alabama visits LSU on Wednesday night.
Arkansas 63, Alabama 57
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