I don't feel like coming up with a goofy title so the final score will have to suffice. I'm also not in the mood to sugar coat, so you've been forewarned.
It seems like every game this year we either start out like gangbusters taking a big lead, or like retards falling way behind. We were on the short bus today as Arkansas got off to an 8-0 lead. Not what you want in your first game in a hostile environment on the road. Yes, I know we played at LSU and Toledo, but please....
Coach Grant picked up a technical foul. I was unable to see what he did from my seat in the last row of the lower level in the corner behind the Arkansas band. In any event, the team seemed to respond and we came roaring back. We took a 6 point lead in the first half and managed to hold on to a 2 point lead at halftime. In recent years past, the start would have likely resulted in us getting run out of the gym in the first half, so at least we are improving.
We had a chance to stretch the lead in the first half, but we were significantly hampered by Torrance picking up his second foul. Anthony Brock was cold, and Ben Eblen simply is not an SEC caliber point guard. He's absolutely no threat to score, and he's too small to be considered a shut down defender. I appreciate his effort and contribution to the team, but I question whether there were better options for Coach Grant to pursue before offering that scholarship. I'm sure he could be a star at VCU, but this is the SEC, and we need to start recruiting accordingly. With Eblen looking to pass at all cost and Brock laying more bricks than a mason, Arkansas knew they only had to stop our inside game. As a result, Knox and Green had absolutely no room to work with when they got the ball down low. Charvez Davis is supposed to be our top perimeter threat, but he is now 3 for 12 over his last 2 games. Somebody is going to have to start making some shots.
With that being said, our post players need to start playing their size. Green and Knox are too tentative around the basket. I agree the refs gave the Hogs some home cooking, but for the most part the reason they got to the line more than us was because they were aggressive and attacked the basket, whereas we were timid and shot too many fade aways. Chris Hines is little more than a warm body out there providing minutes and rest for the other bigs at this point. We have got to get some more production out of these guys if we are going to be a contender this year. Tony Mitchell is our most physical player, but unfortunately he does not have the requisite size and game to play in the post.
Vandy and Arkansas both used the same plan to shut us down in the second half. Zone defense, and force somebody other than Torrance to beat you. As I said above, until we get a consistent perimeter shooter, this plan will beat us everytime.
On the bright side, we kept our cool, played as hard as we could, and played solid defense to keep the game close. In years past, our offensive woes would have led to a blowout. If we can keep the intensity and make some adjustments in the half court offense, there is still hope.
I was hard on Senario Hillman at times last year, and I'm calling him out again. He wasn't the only one playing out of control today, but his errors were certainly the most costly. He got away with an elbow earlier in the game that bloodied an Arkansas player's nose. Then he got away with a reaching in foul on the possession that turned the game. Apparently the Arkansas player held him (on a play that should have already been called dead anyway) and Hillman decided it would be a good idea to throw an elbow right in the guy's face out in the open floor where everybody in the gym could see it. Even the kind Arkansas fans sitting around me, who had been complimentary of our team all day, jumped up screaming "Throw that POS out of the game." I tried to stick up for Senario saying that it wasn't as bad as it looked, but honestly, my heart wasn't in it. It was a stupid play by him, and it likely cost us a chance to win the game. It went from a 1 point game to a 5 point game, but more importantly, it got their crowd involved and the Arkansas players seemed to feed off of that. I'm not saying we would have won were it not for that play, but I think our chances instantly went from 50/50 to about 5/95.
Down the stretch, we switched to a 2-3 zone against Arkansas which was effective in stopping their first shot, but we could not get a rebound out of it. Arkansas made the most of their free throws, and we were woeful in the few opportunities that we had at the line.
This team is scrappy enough to still make some noise. We are likely looking at a 1-3 SEC start, but if we can pull together and beat m$u after that, the schedule will allow us to get back into it if we play our game.
It's hard to estimate the crowd for this game because I couldn't see a good portion of the upper level, and Bud Walton seats over 20,000. My very rough estimate would be around 11,000 or so, considerably less than the last time I was there 3 years ago. The Arkansas fans that were there expressed disappointment in the level of their attendance, particularly in the fact that it wasn't full for their most recent game against rival Texas. We were not very well represented. There was one other Alabama fan directly in front of me about 13 rows or so, otherwise, I did not see or hear any in the entire arena.
I was shocked by the blatant, open racism of the Arkansas fans. One asked me, "So, what kind of ball do you guys play, N***er ball?" When I explained that I had no idea what that means, he clarified with, "you know, I figure Grant is like Nolan Richardson with that put em all out there and just see what happens stuff." I explained that while our system may look chaotic, there is a rhyme and reason to what we do and that we do use the full court. That wasn't the only incident, another said we needed more "white boys who know the game, and we will be alright." Other than that, the Hog fans went out of their way to make me feel welcome, and were very polite and respectful. It's also interesting to note that they seem to be split on Pelphrey, with maybe even a slight majority of them ready to run him off. Incidentally, Bud Walton is probably the 2nd nicest arena in the SEC. My only complaint is their fans are as bad as ours about arriving late and walking down the aisle in the middle of the game. Thankfully, they had TV screens located just above our seats, so I was still able to watch even when the Walmart jackasses were blocking my view.
Up next, 10th ranked Tennessee comes to Tuscaloosa for a 6pm tipoff Tuesday night. They get 2 of their drug smoking, gun toting thugs back for the game. We desperately need a win over somebody of their caliber right now, so if possible, get to Coleman and do your part.