FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Those long dry spells finally caught
up with Alabama.
A week ago, Alabama (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP) trailed South Carolina 28-15 at the half and
won 52-51. On Saturday, Alabama missed its first 13 shots in the
second half before pulling away from Tennessee.
Wednesday night against Arkansas' no-name lineup, the Crimson
Tide (22-5, 20-3 Southeastern Conference) made four of 33 in the first
half and trailed by as many as 17.
Arkansas (13-12, 5-8) did not score a field goal in the final
7:40 of the 67-59 victory, but Carl Baker, Alonzo Lane, T.J.
Cleveland and J.J. Sullinger made enough free throws down the
stretch to keep the Razorbacks in front. Charles Tatum, who scored
16 in the first half, had a slight smile on his face as Baker made
two free throws for the final points with five seconds to play.
"It is tough to come out of a hole on the road," said Alabama
coach Mark Gottfried. "When you shoot 16-of-64, you just can't
win. Over a 40-minute game, if you hold your opponent to 38
percent, you ought to win, but that wasn't the case.
"I give them credit on defense, but we had the same shots we
had last game," Gottfried said.
The loss kept Alabama from wrapping up a share of its first
Western Division title since the SEC expanded in 1992.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak that included a
home loss to LSU on Saturday. After that game, coach Nolan
Richardson came close to calling some of his players soft.
Against Alabama, Richardson used his 14th starting lineup of the
season, a group that was averaging a total of 16 points per game.
Richardson called it his blue-collar lineup.
"Blue-collar players put defense first," he said. "They think
Jannero Pargo and Brandon Dean, the Razorbacks' leading scorers,
played a total of 14 minutes and scored a total of three points.
The group that played most of the way rebounded tough and
challenged shots. That mentality was underlined after Erwin Dudley
scored over Larry Satchell and finished a three-point play that cut
it to 50-42 -- the first time Arkansas' lead had been under double
digits since 17-9. Satchell missed twice and Sullinger did the same
before Satchell got it down for a 10-point advantage.
Richardson called Tatum the best player on the court Wednesday
night and Alabama's Rod Grizzard said Tatum hurt the Crimson Tide
with his first-half shooting.
"We weren't in there to score points," Tatum said. "We were
Alabama trailed 33-19 at the half after missing its final nine
shots of the period.
Baker made two free throws after Alabama closed to within 54-49
and Lane did the same to make it 59-53 at the 1:42 mark.
Tatum finished with a career high 20 points. Earnest Shelton led
Alabama with 18, including consecutive 3s that cut it to 50-39, but
he was only 4-for-13 from the field. Maurice Williams scored 17, but
he was 6-for-17. Rod Grizzard, who averages almost 15 points per
game, missed all nine of his shots.
Richardson said Baker shut down Grizzard.
"He made me force some shots that I didn't really want to
take," Grizzard said.
"I knew that I couldn't let him get off," Baker said. "He is
a big part of their team."
More than 12 minutes deep in the game, Alabama was 3-for-23 and
down 20-10. Grizzard, Shelton, Terrance Meade and Antoine Pettway
were a combined 0-of-14 at that point.
After another miss, Tatum made a 3 for 25-10.
Kenny Walker caught a pass near the basket and when he brought
it down, Cleveland swiped it. Tatum's fourth 3 in six attempts made
it 28-12. Dionisio Gomez blocked a shot and Sullinger added a free
throw for 29-12 -- the biggest lead of the half.