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Alabama Basketball defeats Arkansas in convincing fashion

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Ark_BaskllUA_11The Alabama Basketball team exploded in their final game of the regular season while Trevor Releford solidified himself in the record books with the convincing win over Arkansas 83-58. With the win the Crimson Tide helped to secure the No. 10 seed in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament and will play No. 7 seed LSU Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. CT) on SEC TV.

Coming into the game Arkansas was one of the hottest teams in the nation winning 8 of their last 9, putting the Razorbacks on the NCAA Tournament bubble. A win against Alabama could have locked a spot for them, provided that they don’t suffer an ugly loss in Atlanta next week. Alabama had other plans for the Razorbacks as they were fighting for pride.  The Crimson Tide took the floor with a season full of frustration bottled up.  That bottle was opened from the starting whistle and poured emptied on the Razorbacks.     Ark_BaskllUA_17

“I’m obviously excited to see us get the win…today is about our seniors. I’m just really proud of these guys” UA Head Coach Anthony Grant said.   ”We played hard for 40 minutes,” Releford said.

Releford graced the Coleman Coliseum court one last time in a regular season game scoring 24 points was his 100th career game of double-digit points and his 32nd in a row. He also had team highs in assists (4) and steals (3). With 5:45 remaining and the game well in hand Releford hit a 3-pointer which sent him into the records books for the University as the fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,862 total points for his career at the Capstone. The senior exited the game with just over two minutes to play receiving a standing ovation from the crowd and a big hug from head coach Grant.

“I’m blessed to be in that position,” Releford said. “I never thought coming here that I would be in the top five in scoring at least. I’m just thankful for my teammates finding me and for (Grant) from Day 1 believing in me and giving me the confidence to go out there and play like that every night.”

Ark_BaskllUA_10Senior Isaiah Wilson got his first career start for the Tide and had five points, two rebounds in four minutes of play. The Troy, AL native had played in three other games this season with only one point. His first points came off of a defensive rebound scoring his first field goal of the season on a put-back. Freshman Shannon Hale subbed in for the senior after approx. two minutes of play.

With 2:05 remaining in the game and as one senior exited the game for his final time the other senior entered.  With just over a minute to play Wilson scored Alabama’s final points on an and-one shot in the paint.  “I was nervous going out there,” Wilson said. “It was my first time ever being in front of a big crowd like that, so my emotions were everywhere. I felt very good to go out my senior season like that.”

From the start of the game Alabama was in total control after a 21-3 first-half run which was capped by a layup from Hale to put the UA up 31-11 with 6:03 remaining. The Crimson Tide was 55% from the field while holding the Razorbacks to 17% in the first half.  That is the lowest field goal percentage for an opponent against the Tide in any half this year. Going to the locker room at the half Alabama led 39-16 which was the largest half-time lead for the Crimson Tide this year.Ark_BaskllUA_24

The second half was all about the future for Alabama as the two freshmen Hale and Jimmy Taylor were the stars with. Hale finished the game with 18 points while Taylor added 10 more and six rebounds, and the only blocked shot.  Taylor fouled out with just under five minutes to play. “For freshmen to go out and do that in a game like that, it just shows their growth,” Releford said.

Junior center Carl Engstrom had a team-high seven rebounds along with Cooper who also had seven followed by Obasohan who had six. Cooper and Obasohan had four and five points respectively.  Junior guard Levi Randolph added 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Ark_BaskllUA_31As the season and University careers come to an end for two Alabama players, two more emerge along with several others showing what this Alabama team is truly capable of.  It seems as though this team has lacked confidence and cohesion throughout the season, but with play like today the Crimson Tide showed a glimmer of what they could accomplish. “When you play like that, that’s the kind of results we get. I think guys saw that today. Leading into the SEC tournament, the confidence should be sky high.” Releford said.

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