The Arkansas men’s basketball team fell to the Alabama Crimson Tide 68-67 Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The loss brought the Hogs back down to earth after a nine-game win streak and a historic upset of No. 1 Auburn earlier in the week.
After trailing for most of the contest, the Razorbacks regained the lead late in the fourth quarter. The comeback did not last, though, and the Hogs dropped their first game since Jan. 8.
“We were a basket away from 10 wins in a row,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “We fought, we scrapped. As a coach, as a program, effort is always the No. 1 thing. They had great effort. We came up short.”
Arkansas got out to an early lead in the first half, but the Crimson Tide came back and led for much of the period. The Alabama lead grew as wide as 28-18 with 8:34 left on the clock, but the Razorbacks began to chip away and went into halftime only trailing 37-32.
Senior guard JD Notae, who leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring, picked up two early fouls. He played just four minutes in the first half and sat the last 16 on the bench. The Razorback offense was noticeably less fluid without him on the floor, and that was one of the major reasons the Hogs found themselves in an early hole.
Alabama expanded its lead early in the second half, gaining a 43-33 advantage with 18:12 remaining. The Crimson Tide managed to hold a 13-point advantage multiple times throughout the second half, but could not shake off the Hogs completely.
Arkansas stormed back on an 11-point run, capped off by a Notae 3-pointer to cut the score to 61-60 with 4:29 in the game. Another 3-pointer from Notae at the 2:36 mark gave the Hogs their first lead of the second half.
“We just kept fighting,” sophomore forward Jaylin Williams said. “That’s been our thing all year. We got to be better overall. I have got to make my free throws. We just have to be a better team. We had a lot of defensive lapses we don’t usually have.”
Notae hit a free throw to put Arkansas up 67-66, but the Crimson Tide immediately responded with a layup to retake the lead. Notae settled for a tough look on a potential game-winner from the corner as time expired, but he did not have any late-game heroics left in him.
“We would have liked something more aggressive,” Musselman said. “Something more to the rim. We didn’t need a (3-pointer). We would have been fine with two points or two free throw attempts.”
Notae played just 24 minutes in the game, and while he put up solid numbers, it was not enough. When he was on the court, the Hogs were plus-seven, demonstrating his immense impact. Notae picking up two fouls and Musselman’s decision to keep him on the bench for the majority of the first half put the Razorbacks into too deep a hole to get out of.
Williams gave a brilliant performance once again, leading the team with 22 points and 10 rebounds. But his efforts were for naught, as Arkansas struggled to manufacture any kind of offense around him.
Arkansas will take on its rivals, the Missouri Tigers, 8 p.m. Tuesday in Columbia, Missouri. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
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