TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Arkansas’ five-game SEC winning streak went by the boards on Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.
Alabama pounded the Razorbacks with rebounding to rally for a 73-68 victory before an announced crowd of 13,151.
The Crimson Tide outrebounded Arkansas 38-24, including 23-12 in the second half when Alabama outscored the Razorbacks 15-4 in second-chance points.
Alabama had 10 offensive rebounds in the second half after having one in the first half.
“I think we stopped rebounding,” Arkansas guard Courtney Fortson said of the Razorbacks’ second-half demise. “We lost some toughness. We lost some focus.”
Alabama, which ended a four-game losing streak, found its toughness and focus after trailing 38-29 at halftime.
“It was two completely different halves in terms of the energy and passion we played with,” Tide Coach Anthony Grant said. “I told the guys after the game that sometimes you have … defining moments. You make a decision.
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“I thought in the first half, we didn’t come out with the passion that we needed to against a team the caliber of Arkansas.”
The rebounding totals were a reversal of the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 16, when Arkansas won 71-59 and outrebounded Alabama 40-27, including a 12-7 advantage on the offensive boards.
“They didn’t do anything different in this game,” Razorbacks forward Marshawn Powell said. “We just weren’t attacking the glass like you’re supposed to be doing. That was our big problem.
“Every time they’d miss a shot and get a rebound and score, it just took a lot of energy out of us.”
Alabama (14-11, 4-7) outscored Arkansas 33-15 over a 15-minute span - including five baskets and three free throws after rebounds - to go from a 42-31 deficit to a 64-57 lead with 4:35 left.
Arkansas came back to go ahead 65-64 on Powell’s layup with 2:27 left.
Alabama guard Anthony Brock - a senior from Little Rock McClellan - hit a three-point basket with 2:09 left to give the Tide the lead for good at 67-65.
Alabama clinched the game by hitting 6 of 6 free throws in the final 30 seconds, including two by Brock with six seconds left.
“We usually start with a lot of energy, but today we didn’t have that much energy going,” said Alabama sophomore forward JaMychal Green, who had game highs of 22 points and nine rebounds. “Some guys’ heads weren’t in the game, including mine.
“The second half, Coach got on us and we were ready to go out there and play. We got key stops on defense and made free throws and made shots.
“The coaches, they got on us about rebounding. The last game, they outrebounded us. We took it to heart.”
While Alabama was getting ready to shoot free throws with 6:53 left, Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey yelled from the bench, “If we don’t rebound, we can’t win.”
Then after Chris Hines missed both free throws, Green got a rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws.
“Fundamentally, we just didn’t do some things, we had some breakdowns,” Pelphrey said. “We didn’t do a good job rebounding out of man or zone.”
Fortson scored 18 points, but was 5 of 17 from the fieldand had 5 turnovers along with 6 assists. He was 1 of 7 in the second half.
“It’s very disappointing, with all the hard work we put in, to lose a game like this,” Fortson said. “But we’ll get back in the gym and go to work.”
Arkansas (13-12, 6-4) still leads the SEC West, but the Razorbacks missed a chance to win six consecutive conference games for the first time since 1998.
“I feel like we got lazy in the second half,” Powell said. “We thought we had it won and relaxed a little bit, and we flinched, as Coach said, and they came back and took it from us.
“It was like we knew we were supposed to win. We weren’t fighting with a purpose like we did in the first half.”
Fortson, Powell and forwards Michael Washington and Jemal Farmer shared Arkansas’ rebounding lead with four each. Washington scored 12 points, and Powell had 10.
“When Alabama made their run in the second half, I felt like we backed off,” said Razorbacks guard Rotnei Clarke, who had eight points on 3-of-8 shooting. “That took away some our intensity.”
Pelphrey said Arkansas was hurt by Washington’s foul trouble - he fouled out after playing 28 minutes - and by Alabama’s ability to defend Fortson better in the second half by keeping more players in front of him.
“Life’s hard on the road in the SEC, and Alabama played very well,” Pelphrey said. “Certainly, we’re disappointed.
“It’s all about making plays on both sides of the ball, especially down the stretch. Alabama was better at that today than we were.”
Especially when it came to rebounding.