TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Although the University of Alabama made 11 3-pointers, its postseason resume took another hit with Arkansas wrestling away a 76-73 victory at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday afternoon.
It was the third straight loss for the Crimson Tide (17-12, 8-8 SEC), which has gone from hoping to secure a top-four seeding in the upcoming SEC Tournament in St. Louis to falling back to the middle of the pack in the league standings.
It obviously didn’t due much for its NCAA Tournament prospects either.
“I’m very, very disappointed,” Coach Avery Johnson said. “We’re not there yet.”
Although Alabama was able to take 57-56 lead on two free throws with 6:53 remaining, it was during a 7-minute stretch in which the Crimson Tide didn’t make a shot from the field.
The veteran Razorbacks (20-9, 9-7 SEC) — led by senior guard Daryl Macon with 17 points, senior guard Jayled Barford with 11 and senior forward Dustin Thomas with 10 (with two underclassmen also reaching double figures) — didn’t have that problem.
“We were just being careless with the ball,” freshman guard John Petty said. “Not being focused on offense, not running our plays, not running our stuff. We didn’t have our heads in the right spot at the time.”
“It starts with defense,” sophomore forward Braxton Key added. “We made a lot of mistakes on defense and that carried over to our offense.
“We’re 20-some-odd games into the season, we have to grow up and be more mature.”
Braxton Key isn’t a sixth man
After six games in which Johnson started both of his bigs, junior forwards Donta Hall and Daniel Giddens, Key was back in the starting lineup to try and get more production out of the position.
Key had reached double digits in scoring four times off the bench, and responded with a team-high 16 points, five rebounds and a pair of assists.
Yet he had just two points in the first half.
“I just wanted to win,” Key said. “I didn’t want to let my team down. I thought I played like trash in the first half.”
Arkansas outscored Alabama in the paint, 30-22. Hall’s four points were his fewest since only scoring two against Auburn on Jan. 7. He had eight rebounds and three blocks.
“I have to do a better job of coaching him up,” Johnson said.
After Key, freshman guard Collin Sexton scored 15 points, while Petty netted 14 (going 4-for-6 from 3-point range) and sophomore guard Dazon Ingram had 13.
Alabama fades again
For the third straight game Alabama’s opponent was able to grab more than a dozen offensive rebounds as Arkansas totaled 13. Auburn grabbed 14 on Wednesday and Kentucky 20 last Saturday.
“We wanted to attack the glass,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “We got pushed around in the Kentucky game so our mindset was ‘No more of that.’ The last couple of practices we’ve been working on just putting bodies on people and getting our guards involved.”
Alabama also had 18 turnovers (but made 16), resulting in 21 points for the Razorbacks.
“It’s all about the heart and the tenacity,” Johnson said. “We’re asking these guys to do a lot of things they they’ve never done before.”
Alabama got off to a very sluggish start, quickly falling behind 11-4 in the first 3:18. It wasn’t just the Crimson Tide’s offense, but the whole team looked like it was still trying to shake off the 90-71 loss at Auburn.
“Slow start for us today,” Johnson said. “We were just in a fog to start the game. No rhythm. No sense of urgency. We finally woke up a little bit going into halftime, in the second half. To start the game we just weren’t ourselves. I’m still trying to put my finger on it.”
After Alabama missed its first three 3-point attempts freshman forward Alex Reese hit to spark a 9-3 spurt that allowed the Crimson Tide to tie the game back up at 16.
Another Reese 3, this time off-balance, off the glass to beat the shot clock, sparked Alabama’s biggest run of the game, 17-3, that started near the end of the first half and was aided by Arkansas missing its first seven shots after the break.
However, the Razorbacks made 14 of their last 23 shots.
“Hats off to our guys, they hung in there,” said Anderson, who benefitted from a 22-11 edge in bench scoring. “Games are big this time of year. Wins are big.”