FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas' victory over Alabama seemed
so improbable after the opening minutes of Tuesday's game that
Razorbacks' coach Stan Heath wanted to see the videotaped evidence.
Alabama jumped to a 14-point lead, at one point had
out-rebounded Arkansas 10-1 and seemed to have an answer for every
Razorback run. Then the Crimson Tide went passive, Arkansas turned
up the heat and the Razorbacks took a 65-63 Southeastern Conference
"I'm going to go home tonight and watch that tape one more time
just to see that we did win that," Heath said.
With Ronnie Brewer's three-point play -- a layup and a free throw
-- with 20 seconds left, Arkansas completed a comeback that started
when the Razorbacks were down by 18 points with just over 18
minutes left. Ronald Steele, who scored 29, hit five 3-pointers in
the second half -- seemingly just enough to keep Arkansas at bay --
but misfired on a chance to send the game into overtime.
Going into the middle against 7-foot-1 Steven Hill, Steele threw
the ball up errantly.
"I wanted to drive to the basket and try to score and, if not,
get a put-back, but it fell short," Steele said.
Last month, it was Arkansas that blew a double-digit second-half
lead at Tuscaloosa and fell in overtime 78-75. It looked like
Tuesday's rematch would be no contest as Alabama built a 37-24
"I was taken aback by the way the guys just kept fighting and
fighting," Heath said. "Early on, it didn't look good at all. All
we could do was battle back, and we did that."
Arkansas, which upset then-No. 10 Florida on Saturday, improved
to 18-8 and 7-6 in the conference -- its best league record in
February since the Nolan Richardson years. Alabama fell to 15-10
Tuesday night, the Razorbacks fell behind 20-6 in the game's
first seven minutes and never led until 90 seconds remained.
"This is a disappointing loss because we just needed one more
defensive stop," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "Arkansas had
its back against the wall and they came through."
Steele's 3-pointer with 18:40 left put Alabama up 42-24 but foul
trouble hurt the Tide's inside game and Arkansas took advantage.
When Alabama's Jermareo Davidson picked up his fourth foul and
went to the bench with 15:03 left, Arkansas moved inside with dunks
and buckets off offensive rebounds. When Davidson returned with
7:39 left, Arkansas had closed the margin to 54-47.
"I could not get into my rhythm," Davidson said.
Steele hit a 3 -- he had five in the second half -- to make it
57-49, but Arkansas kept the pressure up inside as Davidson laid
back to avoid his fifth foul. Jonathon Modica's 3 with 5:05 left
geared up the crowd as the margin hit 57-52, then Brewer dunked
after Hill stole the ball away from a tentative Davidson inside.
"We played cautious. We weren't very aggressive," Gottfried
Darian Townes tied the game at 57 with 2:10 left and Thomas
followed his own shot over Davidson to give Arkansas its first lead
of the game, at 59-57, with 1:30 left. Alabama's Jean Felix,
Arkansas' Eric Ferguson and then Steele each hit 3s over the next
minute -- and the Razorbacks gave the ball to Brewer, who drove
inside for a layup over Davidson, who nudged Brewer in the lane to
pick up a foul that sent him to the bench.
"I faked and pulled it back out, then I felt like I had a lane
to the basket," Brewer said. "When I saw it was me against
(Davidson), I knew I wasn't going to lose."
Steele scored seven and Davidson scored six to give Alabama its
early 14-point lead. Arkansas cut the margin to 3 temporarily, but
the Tide pushed the margin back to 13, at 37-24, at the half.
Felix finished with 12 points for Alabama and Davidson had 12,
all in the first half. Townes scored 15 for Arkansas while Brewer
had 12, Modica 11 and Charles Thomas and Ferguson 10 each.