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February 23, 2012

Tide erases early deficit to beat Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | The University of Alabama basketball team, patched in more patterns and stitched in more places than a grandmother's quilt, found a way not to wind up tattered on Thursday night nonetheless.

The Crimson Tide erased a 12-point first half deficit and held on down the stretch in a 79-68 win over Arkansas that put UA above .500 (7-6) in SEC play and - while it secures nothing - puts a road win on a possible NCAA resume at the right time of year.

"I'm very proud of our team," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "We fought through some adversity in the first half and we were able to hold off some runs in the second half."

With Alabama already down its top two scorers in Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green, the Crimson Tide could hard afford to lose another offensive option, but Trevor Lacey - who had eight points in the first five minutes - went down with a sprained ankle at the 10:35 mark of the first half and did not return.

For a moment, the loss of Lacey seemed to stagger Alabama, which had already been hit by a barrage of early 3-pointers by Arkansas. By the time the Crimson Tide seemed to regroup, it trailed 33-21 with 7:15 remaining in the first half.

But instead of folding, Alabama fought.

"It's a testament to how much we've grown and how strong we are," said Crimson Tide forward Andrew Steele. "We've faced all kinds of adversity but we gave stayed strong."

It was also a testament to good shooting. Powered by freshmen Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs off the bench, the Crimson Tide scored 24 points in the final 7:10 of the half, turning the 12-point deficit into a 45-41 halftime lead.

Alabama also scored the first nine points of the second half, making a total run of 33-8, and giving UA a 54-41 lead with 16:30 remaining.

To its credit, Arkansas did make a late run, trimming th deficit to 71-66 with 3:17 to play and having a possession that could have cut the lead further. But freshman guard B.J. Young was called for a charge and Devonta Abron missed a point-blank putback on the next possession, allowing Alabama to seal the win from the foul line.

Four Crimson Tide players finished in double figures, led by Cooper's 17 points off the bench. Steele had 15 points and six rebounds, while Jacobs and Trevor Releford scored 14 points each.

Alabama shot better than 50 percent overall (27 of 49) and from the 3-point line (six of 11).

"It was our defense," Young said. "We let them get by us for easy baskets, transition baskets. It just went past us."

"I thought Alabama came in with a sense of urgency, and you look at us and you didn't always see that," said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, whose team fell to 17-11, 5-8 in the SEC.

Young led Arkansas with 21 points but had just four of those in the second half.

The always-fluctuating Alabama roster remains in doubt for the Saturday evening home game against Mississippi State. Lacey has a sprained right ankle and while Grant said there would not be a medical update until this afternoon, it would take a quick turnaround for his return. As far as the suspended Green, Grant after the game that he would "probably make a decision tonight or tomorrow" on a possible Saturday return.


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