Alabama 88, Arkansas 67

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Ever the optimist, Arkansas coach John Pelphrey kept coaching. He kept fighting. He kept barking instructions. He kept clapping his hands and encouraging his players.

He even motioned for a timeout with two minutes left in the latter moments of Arkansas' 88-67 defeat Wednesday night at Alabama. What else is a coach to do with his team mired in a near month-long losing streak and losing by 20-plus points?

Coach, that's what.

"I got guys out there that need to be coached," Pelphrey said. "Regardless of what the score is, I'm running out of opportunities to coach, and I need to coach. As long as there's time on the clock, and there's games to be played, I'm going to give it my best."

Pelphrey knows, at this point, that concerning himself with the long-term health of the program ranks up there with worrying about its short-term success. But right now, the Razorbacks' recent struggles are nearly impossible to ignore.

Arkansas' loss Wednesday night didn't just mark its 12th defeat in its last 13 games, the first time that's happened since the 1970-71 season. The 21-point beating gave Arkansas (13-13, 1-12) the SEC's worst league mark considering Georgia beat Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.

Throughout most of its eight-game slide, Arkansas performed well enough to win during a majority of those contests. The Hogs produced such a stretch for barely three minutes Wednesday night.

"It's frustrating because we were ready to play," freshman guard Rotnei Clarke said. "We started out on (an 8-3) run, but we struggled from there. You have to give praise to Alabama."

As much as Arkansas deserves ridicule, Alabama (15-12, 5-8) merits acclaim from the Crimson Tide's most lopsided victory ever over the Razorbacks.

Alabama nailed shots at an improbable rate in the first half, building a 49-23 lead after Arkansas grabbed an early 10-8 advantage. Crimson Tide senior forward Alonzo Gee fueled runs of 20-2 and 12-0 by scoring 17 of his game-high 23 points before halftime.

Gee drilled five of his six 3-point shots in the first half, as well, contributing to some mind-boggling shooting stats. The Tide hit 18 of its 28 shots from the floor (64.4 percent) in the opening 20 minutes, including seven of its 11 tries from 3-point range (63.6 percent).

"My teammates got me some great looks," Gee said. "I just knew it, right when I hit that first shot, that it was going to be a great night."

Clarke and freshman point guard Courtney Fortson praised Alabama's shooting effort but also faulted their sporadic defense.

"It was transition defense and scramble defense that hurt us tonight," Fortson said.

On the other end of the floor, nothing seemed to fall for Arkansas after its 4-for-6 start from the floor. The Razorbacks finished the half by missing 19 of their last 23 shot attempts.

The collective ineptitude rendered the second half meaningless, except in Pelphrey's mind obviously, as he urged his Razorbacks on until the final buzzer despite Alabama building a 73-43 lead.

"This is the first time to lose like this," Pelphrey said. "This is a little bit different. We haven't had to deal with this. It's uncharted territory. We're disappointed, and we have to find a way to play better."

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