The Alabama Crimson Tide’s breakthrough year could hit another milestone this week.
No. 6 Alabama (18-5, 13-1 SEC), ranked in the top 10 in February for the first time since 2002, visit the No. 20 Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark., on Wednesday night with a chance to clinch at least a share of the conference’s regular-season title for the first time in 19 years.
The Razorbacks (17-5, 9-4) are right behind Alabama in second place tied with LSU and have won seven consecutive conference games.
Alabama was pushed hard by Vanderbilt, but the Crimson Tide hung on for an 82-78 win on Saturday thanks to a season-high 27 points from Jaden Shackelford. Backup guard Jahvon Quinerly’s 3-pointer pushed the lead to six with 2:09 remaining, and he added a game-clinching free throw with two seconds left helped the Tide avoid the upset.
“That’s what our team is about,” said Alabama guard John Petty Jr., who was held to six points. “We’re about pulling wins out even though we’re not shooting well or doing what we do best.”
The Tide have shot 36 percent from 3-point range this season, but they struggled against the Commodores, connecting on only 10 of their 39 attempts beyond the arc.
“I had no problem taking 39 threes,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “If they’re good shots, take them. But we’ve got to have our shooters knocking down some shots.”
Alabama hit 15 of its 36 attempts from 3 the first time they played Arkansas this season, which culminated in a 90-59 rout Jan. 16 in Tuscaloosa. Petty Jr. broke the school record for career 3-pointers made that day.
The Tide smothered the Razorbacks, who are averaging 82.5 points per game this season, in their first meeting. Arkansas scored only 19 points in the first half on 6-for-26 shooting and committed 12 turnovers.
Freshman Moses Moody was the lone bright spot for Arkansas that day, scoring a career-high 28 points to go along with nine rebounds. Moody leads Arkansas in scoring with 16.2 points per game and is shooting 44 percent overall and 37.1 percent from 3-point range.
Arkansas will have gone more than a week without playing a game by the time it takes the court against Alabama after its game at Texas A&M on Saturday was postponed because of COVID-19 issues within the Aggies’ program.
The Razorbacks, who are ranked for the first time since January 2018, had four players score in double figures in their last game — a 75-64 home triumph over Florida on Feb. 16.
Davonte Davis led Arkansas with 18 points, as he and Jalen Tate held off a late Gators’ comeback attempt. Tate and Moody each scored 14 points. Justin Smith also impacted the game on the defensive end with a key block late. Smith missed four games in January with an ankle injury and the Razorbacks went 1-3 during his absence.
“He came back a little early from the injury because he’s a great teammate,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “The last game was the first game he didn’t have pain and didn’t have much swelling. He’s playing like we thought he would be capable of. He’s a dominant player in the SEC on both sides of the ball.”
Alabama had some good news on the injury front last week as forward Jordan Bruner (right knee) returned to its lineup against Vanderbilt after missing the previous nine games.
–Field Level Media