Riley's Homecoming Proves Bittersweet

FAYETTEVILLE — Mykal Riley's family didn't make the trip to Northwest Arkansas to watch him sit on the bench, battling foul trouble for much of Sunday afternoon.

They came to see the Alabama guard do things like run to the top of the key, create some separation and drain a last-second 3-pointer to force overtime against Arkansas.

Riley did all that during a homecoming that proved bittersweet for the Pine Bluff native, who grew up rooting for the Razorbacks.

The senior scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and made one of the biggest shots of the afternoon in front of more than 20 family members in Bud Walton Arena.

But he also sat for long stretches, fouled out in overtime and left with a 71-67 loss that nearly went in Alabama's favor. "I thought for sure we had the momentum going into overtime," Riley said. "We just came up a little short."

Riley picked up his fourth foul in the opening minutes of the second half, forcing him to sit on the sidelines as the Crimson Tide made a late rally.

But he returned to the lineup and had a big impact despite being limited to just 28 minutes because of foul trouble.

During a span of 37 seconds, Riley sank a 3-pointer at the end of regulation and then hit a pair of free throws that gave Alabama its first lead at 62-60 in the opening seconds of overtime.

"I thought he came back and got back in the game and made some big (shots)," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said, "made one huge one there right before the end of regulation."

Trailing 60-57 with 28 seconds remaining, Gottfried called a play known as "Guard Screen Wide." The play is drawn up for two post players to set screens down low to get Riley open for a 3-pointer.

"If I'm open, I shoot it," Riley said. "And I happened to be open, and I made it."

Alabama guard Brandon Hollinger passed the basketball to Riley, who came around a screen and drained the 3-pointer over Arkansas forward Sonny Weems to tie the score at 60-60.

"With Riley, he's such a good shooter, all you've got to give him is just an inch," said Alabama forward Richard Hendrix, who set one of the screens for Riley. "... I knew if (his 3-point shot) was up, it would count. Our strategy worked.

"I just wished we would have been down two instead of three. We would walked out of here with a win."

Riley made 4 of 6 3-pointers and 5 of 9 shots from the floor, but his homecoming ended unceremoniously. He fouled out with 55 seconds remaining in overtime when he hit Arkansas guard Gary Ervin as he went up for a layup.

Ervin made the layup and the ensuing free throw to give the Razorbacks a 68-64 lead. Riley, meanwhile, took a seat with five fouls.

"You don't know how the refs are going to be, especially when you're away (from home). So it's real tough, but I handled it," Riley said. "In the second half, I had a chance to take it into overtime."

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