TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Arkansas men’s basketball team saw junior Rotnei Clarke score 21 points, but his effort was not enough as the Razorbacks fell to Southeastern Conference Western Division leader Alabama, 69-56, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Arkansas (16-10, 5-7 SEC) has its two-game winning streak stopped with the loss while Alabama (18-8, 10-2 SEC) remains undefeated at home this season and assures itself at least a share of the SEC Western Division title with the win.
"Coming in, we knew that we had to play 40 minutes of basketball in order to win," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "We thought that we had a chance in the second half, but our defense wasn’t quite what it was in the first. You have to give credit to Alabama. They played well enough to win tonight."
The Razorbacks and Crimson Tide played a back-and-forth game throughout the opening half with the home squad controlling the early portion of the game. The Tide led by as many as six through the 15 minute mark, but a 9-1 run over 2:19 on the clock gave the Razorbacks their first lead of the game at 12:17 after Jeff Peterson connected on a layup.
Clarke scored 14 points in the first half to lead all scorers, going 3-of-6 from the floor and 3-of-4 from three-point range, while also hitting five free throws. Peterson tallied five for the Hogs in the opening 20 minutes as the teams went into the locker room knotted at 31.
Scoring in the second half was hard to come by for either team until the latter moments of the contest when the Crimson Tide was able to pull away. After shooting an impressive 47.6 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes, the Razorbacks managed just 32 percent from the field in the second half which led to just 25 points. The Crimson Tide improved its shooting by 15 percent from the first to second half which allowed them to earn the home victory.
Clarke ended the contest with 21 points including 4-of-5 from three-point range and a career best 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Clarke used the dribble to get into the lane on numerous occasions and drew fouls from the several Alabama players both from the guard position and low post. Clarke also led the Razorbacks in rebounding with five, but each of the nine Arkansas players in the game grabbed at least two boards as the Razorbacks matched the Crimson Tide on the glass with 32 rebounds each. Also standing out on the stat sheet was sophomore Glenn Bryant’s career best five blocked shots in just 18 minutes on the floor.
"I thought that Rotnei played well and made some difficult shots," Pelphrey said.
Leading the way for Alabama was Tony Mitchell who scored a game high 27 points including 14 in the final 20 minutes. He was joined by JaMychal Green, 16, and Trevor Relaford, 17, in double digits. Green and Mitchell also had nine rebounds apiece to lead the Crimson Tide in the category.
The Razorbacks are back on the court on Wednesday night when it hosts the University of Kentucky at Bud Walton Arena at 7 p.m.