By: Peyton Davis
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Crimson Tide traveled to the Bud Walton Arena to take on the 16th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks in their toughest SEC test yet on Wednesday night.
The Tide looked to continue their early season road success and pick up a huge conference road win in an arena that they haven’t won at in over a decade. It was a raucous crowd in Fayetteville, as Arkansas looked to rebound coming off a loss at Auburn. The two teams showed their prowess on the defensive side of the floor early on as points were extremely hard to come by throughout the early parts of the first half.
The pace of the game was also slow as a result, as the visiting Crimson Tide continuously drew fouls and got to the line to quiet the Razorback’s student crowd.
Senior guard Mark Sears was able to get the Tide offense going with his aggression in getting paint touches and converting at the rim. The physicality of the game was the most glaring part of the first half, and the Tide came up empty at the free throw line multiple times, leading to a late-half Arkansas run.
The Razorbacks clearly emphasized running the Tide off the three point line and staying attached to freshman sensation Brandon Miller. He did not attempt a field goal in the first half because of the defense continuously trapping him and forcing the Tide to rotate around the ball. It’s something Head Coach Nate Oats has struggled with in the past.
Despite Miller not having any impact offensively in the first half, his presence was still felt because of how dangerous he is.
“When Brandon is on the floor, he draws so much attention,” Mark Sears said.
After 20 minutes of play the game was deadlocked at 33 a piece, and—to the credit of the Razorbacks—Alabama sat at 2/10 from three at the break.
The second half opened with Coach Oats getting Brandon Miller touches in the mid-court off screening action, resulting in four early points to get him going. Both offenses began the half with a lot better rhythm, but the physicality did not let up in any way.
Another adjustment Coach Oats made was moving Noah Clowney to the five, similar to the Houston game. That change led to a far more spread out court. Clowney made multiple big plays that led to the largest Crimson Tide offensive surge of the game of the first 30 minutes.
However, minutes later, Arkansas answered back shrinking the Tide lead to two points. This run coincided with Noah Clowney resting.
Out of the ensuing timeout, Noah Clowney checked back in, and the Tide’s first three possessions resulted in three straight threes (one by Clowney, two by Miller). The 11-0 run put the game out of reach for the Razorbacks. In the end, the Tide grew their lead en route to a 84-69 road win in a very hostile environment.
“Man, Clowney is not scared of much. Neither is Miller,” Nate Oats said.
The freshman duo was huge down the stretch, but it was the play from start to finish of Mark Sears, who finished with a game high 26 points.
“He’s at his best every day, practice, off the court, on the court, it just doesn’t stop,” Brandon Miller said regarding Sears.
The team as a whole displayed how much it has matured so quickly, and Oats was quick to praise the job they did down the stretch.
“Our guys showed they’ve got some toughness, some character, some grit,” he said.
The Tide will look to ride the momentum from Wednesday’s huge road win into the weekend, as they host the 12-4 LSU Tigers this Saturday.