Alabama 90, Arkansas 59: What we learned in Crimson Tide's most lopsided SEC win in 8 years

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama basketball (11-3, 6-0 SEC) extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games on Saturday, leading by as many as 25 points in the first half of a 90-59 win over Arkansas.

The 31-point winning margin was Alabama’s largest in SEC play since a 75-43 win at Mississippi State in 2013.

Here are three key observations:

Jan 16, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Keon Ambrose-Hylton (22) dunks against Arkansas Razorbacks forward Connor Vanover (23) during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Tide defense also meant business 

Alabama held Arkansas to 23 percent shooting (6-of-26) in the first half, including just one 3-pointer, and forced 12 Razorback turnovers. As exciting as the Crimson Tide offense can be, the key to the seven-game winning streak has been the Alabama defensive improvement over the previous year.

Freshman star Moses Moody got his points (28) for the Razorbacks, but Alabama shut down almost everything else. The big lead and fast tempo also negated 7-foot-3 Razorback center Connor Vanover, who played three minutes and did not score.  

“Last year we jumped out to a big lead against those guys (12-0 in the first four minutes) and we couldn’t hold it,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. 

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How Jordan Bruner was replaced 

The absence of 6-11 forward Jordan Bruner, who is expected to be out for approximately a month after meniscus surgery, caused some shuffling in the Alabama lineup.

Oats said Friday that Bruner’s absence would mean extra minutes for Alex Reese, Juwan Gary, James Rojas and Keon Ellis. All contributed, with Gary having a 4-for-4 shooting night, scoring nine points and grabbing three rebounds. 

Herb Jones, who injured a finger Tuesday in a win over Kentucky, served as his own replacement committee.

"Herb's finger was huge Thursday,” Oats said. “He didn't practice that day. Friday, he came in and said he'd give it a go. Looked good enough in practice, so I said if you feel good tomorrow we'll play you.

“If Herb's breathing and capable of playing, he's playing."

In 22 minutes, Jones scored 13 points, had four rebounds and was a plus-32 on his plus/minus ratio (cumulative score while on the floor) for the game.

Jan 16, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard John Petty Jr. (23) reacts after hitting a three pointer during the first half against Arkansas Razorbacks at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

John Petty Jr. makes 3-point history 

John Petty Jr. made five 3-point attempts to become Alabama’s all-time leader with 265, surpassing guard Brian Williams (1996-99), who had 263. Petty also became the 28th player in Alabama history to score more than 1,300 points.

Petty led Alabama with 17 points with Jaden Shackelford adding 16. 

"(Someone) wrote an article about how he's (Petty) struggling from the 3-point since then, big numbers, I think he’s 9-for-16," Oats said. "He’s shooting great. (Alex) Reese came to me and asked if someone can write an article about him so he can get his shot going. That’s a request from Reese."

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt