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Tide holds Hogs with late throws

Arkansas’ basketball team came into Coleman Coliseum Thursday night without a road win. The trend continued. Alabama (13-7, 5-2 SEC) topped the hapless Hogs, 59-56, before an announced crowd of 11,132 at Coleman Coliseum.

It took some clutch free Alabama free throw shooting to overcome 21 turnovers, but Bama got it from Trevor Lacey, Trevor Releford, Nick Jacobs and Levi Randolph, who combined to hit seven of eight from the charity stripe in the final 3:30 to ice the win. Randolph stroked a pair with 4.2 seconds left to force an errant trey by the Razorbacks’ BJ Young as the horn sounded.

“This game, for us, was about finding a way to win,” said Tide coach Anthony Grant. “Down the stretch, we did a great job of making plays, and had guys that stepped up at critical times. This was one of those games we just had to grind out.

“I thought our guys just did a really good job from a defensive standpoint, especially in the second half, of limiting their opportunities.”

Added Lacey, “It’s great, knowing we can execute and make plays when we have to, to win the game.  We got a lot of those 50/50 (loose) balls that Coach (Grant) preaches at us to get.”

Lacey led the Tide with 14 points, and joined in double digits by Releford (12) and Jacobs, who scored ten. Randolph had nine points, four boards, three assists and two steals.

Randolph said, “It’s a good feeling to know that when adversity hits, we can fight through, and keep playing for the full 40 minutes.

“We have to execute our plays and get good shots. When we don’t execute, we tend to not score.”

Arkansas had two men in double figures: Young (14) and Marhawn Powell (11). Powell, long a thorn in the Tide’s side, came in averaging  21.

The first half featured two ties and four lead changes, but the visitors’ biggest lead was one while Bama led by as many as 11 when Andrew Steele (four  points) drove the lane with just under 3:30 left. Devonta Pollard delighted the crowd with a blocked dunk on one end and an old-fashioned 3-point play seconds later at the other on the way to seven points, seven boards, a block and a steal. The teams headed to the locker room with the Tide up by seven, 30-23, after Arkansas (12-8, 3-4) scored the final two buckets of the half. Each team turned the ball over ten times in the first 20 minutes.

Second half highlights (besides the clutch free throws) included treys from Lacey and Randolph, and several blocks under the basket by Moussa Gueye, who was credited with four swats and seven boards to go with three points. Bama won the battle of the backboards, 38-29. Arkansas had a 20-14 advantage in points off turnovers to keep them in the game, their closest road loss of the season.

“I told our guys I loved the effort. We didn’t lose, we just ran out of time,” said Hogs coach Mike Anderson. “Alabama did a good job of  getting offensive rebounds (16), and making those free throws down the stretch. We just couldn’t quite make those plays (needed to win).

“We missed maybe two or three dunks, that should have been ‘and one’s.’”

Oddly, the game featured no made dunks.  Alabama will face Vanderbilt on the SEC network Saturday in Nashville, with tip time set for 3 p.m. CT.

“We’ve just got to get focused, come into practice, and do the things Coach (Grant) tells us to do,” said Randolph.

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