A furious second-half comeback and the poise of sophomore forward JaMychal Green led the Alabama men’s basketball team to a 73-68 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide (14-11, 4-7 SEC) snapped a four-game losing skid, while the Razorbacks (13-12, 6-4 SEC) drop their first one in six games.
The Tide’s second half was the stuff of legend, with a monstrous 44-point output following an unproductive opening salvo.
“I thought it was two completely different halves in terms of the energy and passion we played with tonight,” said head coach Anthony Grant.
The only Tide consistency seemed to come with Green, who connected on a perfect 5-of-5 attempts from the free-throw line in the final 20 minutes to cap a 7-of-8 first half pace. Green led all scorers in the contest with 22 points, his second 20-point performance against Arkansas in as many years.
The opening half was a disaster all the way around for the Tide, with the SEC’s top defensive unit getting plastered in the opening 10 minutes of the contest. Arkansas connected on 11 of 16 shots, a 68.7 percent clip, and hit four of five three-point attempts en route to a 27-21 lead. An Alabama switch to the full-court press midway through the onslaught exacerbated the damage.
“We were late, we weren’t alert, we didn’t do a very good job of getting into our defense,” Grant said.
The defensive slashing was carried out in large part by sophomore Razorbacks guard Courtney Fortson. The Montgomery native sped and shot his way through, around and over Tide defenders on his way to 12 first half points. Fortson finished the game with 18 points to lead all Arkansas players.
“He’s obviously a great player, a great competitor,” Grant said. “It’s unbelievable the impact [Fortson] has on his team.”
By the time Alabama’s defense recovered and the Arkansas offense slowed down, the Razorbacks held a 34-21 advantage with 6:22.
On offense, the Tide attempted a mere 17 first-half shots. With senior Mikhail Torrance beginning the contest on the bench for the second consecutive game, Alabama’s guards struggled to find open players in the key.
Alabama did not attempt a single shot from the field in the final eight minutes of the first half, with Alabama’s leading halftime scorer, JaMychal Green, earning seven of his 11 points on the free-throw line.
“I challenged them at the half,” Grant said. “There were a lot of things I was displeased with and I thought it had to do with our focus, concentration and effort.”
The Tide responded, flying out of the second-half gates with an inspired rally that was led by Torrance’s 10 points, to pull off a remarkable 15-5 run and pull ahead 53-47 with 10:28 remaining in the game. A large part of the Tide’s turnaround came at the boards, where Alabama out-rebounded the Razorbacks 23-12 in the final 20 minutes.
“The coaches got onto us about rebounding after the [Kentucky] game,” Green said. “So we just went out and battled tonight.”
After extending its lead to seven, the Tide offense stalled, allowing Arkansas to embark on a 8-0 run to regain the lead before an Anthony Brock three-point bucket with 1:50 remaining put the Tide back on top for good 67-65.
The Tide receives a much-needed break, taking the next week off before returning to action on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs.
“I like the fact that we’ll have some days to look at where we are and what we need to do heading into the homestretch,” Grant said.