February 27, 2008

Alabama knocks off Razorbacks, 59-56

John Pelphrey's summary put it best: "There were bizarre things going on out there that I couldn't begin to explain," said the Arkansas basketball coach.

And an Alabama victory was only one of them.

The Crimson Tide knocked off the Razorbacks 59-56 at Coleman Coliseum Wednesday night, pulling itself into a tie for third place in the SEC West with a 4-9 league mark.

For an Alabama team already assured of a losing SEC record, there were clear signs of experimentation from coach Mark Gottfried. Gee took the center circle on the opening tip, a curiosity given that Richard Hendrix has handled that duty for most of the season. And to make a strange night at Coleman Coliseum even stranger, Crimson Tide forward Demetrius Jemison scored 19 points, a career-high and the first double-figure scoring night in his Southeastern Conference career. Usually good for more more than a putback or two, Jemison said he benefited from Arkansas' double-teaming of Hendrix.

"He outplayed them," Pelphrey said of Jemison. "From start to finish. Offensive rebounding, low-post defense, everything. We didn't have an answer. You would have thought that from Hendrix - that's where your concern is."

Jemison added 11 rebounds, also a game-high total, and helped seal the victory with a pair of late free throws.

Another head-scratcher game with 14:45 left in the first half, when Gottfried made a wholesale substitution - five in, five out - and flopped between the two lineups twice more. He didn't break up either squad until 6:40 left in the first half.

"With our team there isn't a lot of separation sometimes with our guys," Gottfried said. "We've got 10, and I wanted to see them all in there. So let's see who's playing hard, and well, and go from there."

Starters Hendrix, Jemison, Rico Pickett, Mykal Riley and Gee opened an 8-6 lead before sitting for Yamene Coleman, Justin Knox, Brandon Hollinger, Mikhail Torrance and Senario Hillman. The latter five didn't score a point in two first-half stints together, but played enough defense to help preserve a narrow halftime lead.

"Our defense was the key for us tonight," Gottfried said.

It was that kind of night.

Alabama also managed to win with just eight combined points from Riley and Gee, two of its three leading scorers. Gee managed just two points in 16 minutes, while Hillman scored eight and induced a 1-of-6 3-point shooting night from Razorbacks standout Sonny Weems with his defense.

"Once Senario gets going, he's hard to take out," said Gottfried.

Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley the SEC's best rebounding guard who grabbed 13 rebounds against Alabama in Fayetteville, was limited to five on Wednesday. It was an off-night all around for Beverley, who shot just 2 of 11 and handed out just one assist.

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