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February 22, 2012
Steele staying positive
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | According to University of Alabama basketball coach Anthony Grant, tonight's game against Arkansas is not about the players who are absent.
For Arkansas, it's about how much they can squeeze out of the players on hand.
The Razorbacks have fallen out of the NCAA Tournament discussion after losing four of their last five games, including three blowouts - a 22-point loss at Georgia, a 19-point loss at Tennessee and a historically bad 30-point home loss to Florida in their last outing. The low-energy performance in those losses has prompted concern in the Arkansas camp about whether the Razorbacks are suffering from "fatigue," either mental or physical.
"I think fatigue is a factor," Razorback coach Mike Anderson said on Monday's Southeastern Conference teleconference. "Especially having only eight scholarship players, it's an issue. But the biggest issue is this team's psyche coming off a tough loss at home."
Grant and the Alabama team probably have little sympathy for the Arkansas psyche coming off a tumultuous five-game stretch of suspensions and injuries. The Crimson Tide will still be without its top two scorers in tonight's 6 p.m. game, with Tony Mitchell suspended for the season and senior JaMychal Green at least one game away from full reinstatement. Grant, however, says Alabama (17-9, 6-6 SEC) has moved past those issues, and at least one Crimson Tide player actually put a positive spin on the situation.
"I think it's forced some other people to step up and take on different roles that they might not have been used to," Tide junior Andrew Steele said on Monday. "I think it's really positive if we can get everyone to be as comfortable as they have been and stay aggressive and keep playing as confident as they have been."
In fact, the Crimson Tide will have more depth than it had last Saturday at Tennessee because of the expected return of freshman forward Nick Jacobs, who played just seven minutes against Florida and did not play at all against Tennessee.
"Nick should be available and good to go, " Grant said. "He had an infection from the injury. I think there was a low-grade fever there and some pain and things along those lines. I think he's feeling better. He's doing better so he should be fine."
Alabama won the first meeting this season, 72-66, behind 18 points from Trevor Releford and a 50-percent shooting effort from the field for the team.
Arkansas (17-10, 5-7) had not lost at home prior to the Saturday loss to Florida.
Obviously, there's been a lot said about their success at home and we are fully aware of that," Grant said. "Anytime you go on the road, you know you're going to be in a hostile environment, and Arkansas, in my opinion, is one of the best environments in our league, if not in our country. We understand that we have to be able to control the things we can control."
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.