What do you know! Alabama Men's Basketball got themselves a victory against a quality team and finished strong. The Razorbacks were in sole possession of first place in the West Division of the SEC until the road trip to Tuscaloosa.
In the first half of play, it seemed the four-game skid had taken the fighting spirit out of the Crimson Tide, and they were ready to lay down their armor and surrender to the first place Arkansas team.
Alabama suffered losses on the road at Auburn, Mississippi, and Kentucky, along with a home loss to Florida. Two of the losses were by one point (AU, UF), and the loss at Mississippi was an abysmal collapse after leading by 23 points in the second half.
But it wasn't going to happen again. Not in our house! The coaches woke up and then woke up the sleeping giant that collectively crouches inside the Alabama Team. That's right, Team with a capital "T". Anthony Grant has his first signature win.
No one single player made this win happen; it was a team effort that turned a close game into a comfortable win. The giant awoke after a spirited talk by head coach Anthony Grant. His theme was about a "defining moment." I hope it was recorded, and I hope even more that it gets replayed over and over. It worked like a charm!
Down 38-29 at halftime, Alabama came out of the half and dominated on the boards, out-rebounding the Hogs 23-12 (38-24 for the game); 10 of those second-half rebounds were on the offensive glass, resulting in 15 second-chance points.
The rebounding was spread across the Crimson-and-White team. JaMychal Green (9) led the attack on the boards with help from Chris Hines (7), Senario Hillman (4), and Justin Knox (4). Torrance and Mitchell had three each and Charvez Davis had two.
The only Alabama player not credited with a rebound was the shortest man on the team, Anthony Brock. Yet he did play a role in helping the Tide gather in six team rebounds, rounding out the game total. In addition, Mr. Brock played relentless defense on the Hogs guard, Courtney Fortson.
The Arkansas starting point guard was 4-10 from the field, nailing three three-point baskets and scoring a total of 12 points in the first half. In the second half, Brock's aggressive defensive effort held the guard to 1-7 from the field and 0-2 from three-point range. Fortson finished with 18 points, scoring 5-8 from the charity stripe.
The Tide also improved their collective free-throw shooting. As a Team, they nailed 22-29 (75.9 percent) while the Hogs shot 50 percent from the line (6-12). Despite the unbalanced number of shots from the line, it seemed that the Crimson Tide could not get a break from the officials.
Several close blocking and charging fouls continued to go the way of the Hogs in the first and second halves. The Tide fought their way through the melee and won the battle as well as the war on the court.
It was a great victory for the Tide. A redemption of sorts. The crowd was electric and showed their support for the team despite the four game losing streak. More than 13,000 showed up in Coleman Coliseum for the game.
When Senario Hillman's nemesis, Rotnei Clark, got the ball in his hands, the crowd booed until he passed it away. It was Clark's academy award performance in Fayetteville that resulted in Hillman's ejection for two flagrant fouls.
Every shot by Clark was contested by Hillman with help from the crowd. The "Chaos" helped in keeping Clark at bay, ending with a season-low eight points and one rebound. Clark was not fouled in this game. Hillman came to play, his defense was timely and he contributed greatly on offense to help with this team win.
The Tide victory doesn't do much for the standings at this point, but as Grant suggested in the locker room, it just may be a defining moment in the season. Next, the Tide goes on the road to Athens and then to Starkville to stave off the bite of the bulldogs in Georgia and Mississippi.
They will finish out the season with two of the last three contests at home in Coleman Coliseum. If somehow they can return from the two-game stint with two road victories, they just may have a chance to land a spot in one of the postseason tournaments.
Let's go Bama, get your game on!