As amazing as it seems University of Arkansas basketball program is off to a 2-0 start in SEC action for the first time in six years.
But the Razorbacks had to work overtime to make it happen.
Darian Townes had 18 points, Sonny Weems 17 points, Charles Thomas 13 and Gary Ervin 7 of his 12 in overtime as Arkansas downed Alabama 71-67 Sunday afternoon in league action before 19,153 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"We are very fortunate to win this basketball game today," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "...I'm not surprised it turned into a battle. The thing we need to focus on a lot more now is those scrambling plays.
"Did we play great? No," Pelphrey added. "But we kept trying to get to the next play. Those guys had opportunities to stop playing and didn't."
Ervin, who had struggled all day, had consecutive 3-point plays after his team fell down a bucket in overtime, then hit a free throw and Thomas nailed two more charity tosses with 11.7 second left to clinch the win for Arkansas (13-3, 2-0).
"I missed a lot of shots, but my teammates picked me up," Ervin said. "I got them (shots) when it counted. We got some great stops on defense and that allowed us to seal the deal."
Patrick Beverley, the Razorbacks' 6-1 sophomore guard who missed 10 minutes in the second half with his fourth foul, had just 6 points, but a game-high 13 rebounds.
What made his performance even more amazing is that he dislocated his jaw in the first half and yet still managed to grab the 13 rebounds. He was taken for x-rays after the game.
Richard Hendrix led the way for Alabama (11-6, 0-2) with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Pine Bluff native Mykal Riley added 16 points, Alonzo Gee 15 and Demetrius Jemison grabbed 10 rebounds.
"I'm extremely proud of my team," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. "I thought both teams played very hard. We overcame a lot. Arkansas made some runs early and we didn't back down. We played very well against a team that, in my opinion, has the potential to be a great basketball team. They already are, but they have the experience and talent to be tremendous. We stood toe-to-toe with them."
Neither team shot well at all with Arkansas shooting just 37.3 percent from the field and Alabama 35.3 percent.
Townes, on the other hand, was 7-of-8 from the field, 4-of-6 fromt he free thrown line and grabbed 3 rebounds, blocked 2 shots and had a steal.
It was Riley's 3-pointer with 18.7 seconds left in regulation that tied the game 60-60 and it stayed that way when Thomas' shot was blocked near the buzzer.
"We let them off the hook near the end of regulation, but we stayed calm," Weems said. "Give credit to Alabama, they played great and gave it a good shot. We were the better team all day."
Riley's free throws put his team ahead 62-60 just into the overtime, but Townes answered with a pair of his own with 4:15 left in the extra period.
It stayed that way for nearly 3 minutes before Riley knocked down a 15-footer at the shot clock buzzer only to be upstaged by Ervin's 3-pointer that put Arkansas ahead 65-64 with 1:18 left in the game.
A block resulted in an Ervin's old-fashioned three-point with his free throw pushing his team ahead 68-64 with 54.6 left.
"We had some incredible looks in the second half and couldn't make them fall," Pelphrey said. "Gary was very tentative in trying to attack the zone. For him to keep playing and working hard was great."
Gee's 3-pointer got his team within one, but Ervin then hit 1-of-2 free throws and Thomas cashed in both of his with 11.3 remaining.
"It was heart and toughness," Gottfried said. "Our kids made big shots, but we probably needed one more shot."
Weems' big 3-pointer from the right with 7:28 left gave Arkansas a lift and a 55-46 advantage.
But Alabama cut it to 56-53 when Arkansas native Mykal Riley fed Demetrius Jemison for a dunk with 4:27 left.
Beverley, after missing 10 minutes with his fourth foul, buried a 3-pointer to get his team back up 6.
Arkansas got out aggressively both offensive and defensively and used a 14-3 spree early on in the half to give itself a cushion.
Weems had five points in that run that ended with Ervin turning a Townes steal into a fast-break basket on the other end as the Razorbacks went up 20-8 at the 12:21 mark.
""We have a different mindset this season," Ervin said. "We're sharing the ball more. We have great team chemistry.
But Alabama steadied itself and rallied to within six points on four different occasions later in the first half.
The final time was on Rico Pickett's two free throws that cut it to 34-28 with 1:15 left in the half.
Townes' jumper with 59 seconds left was the last scoring in the opening half and left Arkansas with a 36-28 lead at the break.
Arkansas will return to action Wednesday night when it hosts South Carolina in a 7:05 p.m. game at Bud Walton Arena.
"This was a good win at home in front of our fans," Thomas said. "We're going to take this win and run with it, but it'll be will time to go back to work tomorrow at noon."
Steven Hill gets one of his three blocks on the day as Alabama freshman Rico Pickett challenges him.
Darian Townes goes up over Richard Hendrix for 2 of his game-high 18 points.
Gary Ervin picks up a loose ball with Senario Hillman (21), Sonny Weems (13) and Justin Tubbs (3) all heading upcourt.
Sonny Weems soars above a crowd that includes Alabama's Alonzo Gee and Demetrius Jemison.
Gary Ervin celebrates after the win as Steven Cox, Michael Washington and Steven Hill follow him to the locker room.
Arkansas 71, Alabama 67 (OT)
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