The No. 20 Razorback men’s basketball team (18-5, 10-4 Southeastern Conference) extended its SEC winning streak to eight games with an 81-66 victory against No. 6 Alabama (18-6, 13-2) at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night.
Although the stadium was at less than half-capacity, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman emphasized the impact the fans had on the game in a postgame press conference.
“What an incredible fan base. The arena was rocking,” Musselman said. “We could feel their energy and they were worth a lot of points to us tonight.”
The Razorbacks overwhelmed Alabama in the paint with their size and toughness. The physical play down low led to a season-high 43 free throw attempts for the Hogs, while the Crimson Tide shot just eight attempts from the charity stripe.
“We did not want to get in a 3-ball contest with them,” Musselman said. “We felt like attacking the rim was something we really wanted to do and Moses (Moody) was really effective (at) drawing FTAs”
Arkansas swatted a season-high 11 shots against the Crimson Tide, including two from junior forward Ethan Henderson who had not played more than three minutes since Jan. 16.
“I thought Ethan came in and did a really good job,” Musselman said. “His quickness off the floor tonight really helped us.”
The Razorbacks utilized a freshman-laden rotation to frustrate an experienced Alabama lineup.
“There are not many teams that are relying on three freshmen the way that we are,” Musselman said. “We are relying on those guys to win (and) we are relying on them to score baskets.
Musselman said he dialed up more play for freshman guard Moses Moody and freshman forward Jaylin Williams than anybody else.
Moody led the Hogs with 24 points, making 16 of 19 free throw attempts. Williams narrowly missed a double-double with 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
“I want to be that guy that can come in and change the game if we need it,” Williams said in a postgame press conference.
With his team down by six in the second half, Musselman called a timeout to slow the opposition’s momentum. Arkansas came out of the break and went on a 17-2 run to take a commanding lead.
Musselman said he told his players to not feel sorry for themselves and get back to the game plan of attacking the basket.
Arkansas held the lead the rest of the way and denied Alabama the chance to clinch the SEC title in Fayetteville.
“They brought everybody’s wives and they were ready to come celebrate on our court,” Moody said in a postgame press conference. “That was disrespectful.”
The Hogs are now one win away from going undefeated throughout the month of February.
“When it is all said and done, I want us to be remembered as winners,” Moody said. “We’re starting to build that reputation.”
The Razorbacks will host the LSU Tigers (14-7, 9-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
“Of course (the NCAA Tournament) is in all of our heads but we’re ready for the next game and thinking about LSU,” Williams said.