FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It had been nearly a quarter-century since Arkansas had played a ranked team at home, let alone beaten one there.
No. 20 Arkansas ended both those droughts Wednesday night, beating sixth-ranked Alabama, 81-66.
The Razorbacks, once staples atop the Southeastern Conference standings, hadn’t beaten a ranked team in Fayetteville while they, too, had been ranked since Nolan Richardson was coaching in the late 1990s. That was five coaches and 23 years ago.
Coach Eric Musselman, in his second year with the Razorbacks (18-5, 10-4 SEC), had to change clothes after the game. The celebration was that wet after the Crimson Tide had won the teams’ first meeting by 31 points in January. Arkansas hasn’t lost an SEC game since.
“We’ve run eight in a row and we lost a home game that we didn’t even get to play and we play well at home. I would say this team is playing really good basketball,” Musselman said.
A 17-2 run in the second half was the death blow. Freshman Jaylin Williams scored 10 of his season high 13 points during the stretch and Arkansas (18-5, 10-4 SEC) held Alabama (18-6, 13-2) to the lone two points, a John Petty Jr. jumper, over a stretch of almost nine minutes, turning a six-point deficit to a nine-point lead with less than 10 minutes to play.
Williams grabbed another eight rebounds and finished plus-30 in his 22 minutes. Musselman said he ran more plays for Williams and fellow freshman Moses Moody on Wednesday than he had in any other game all year.
“(Williams) is a really confident freshman who keeps getting better. There’s not many teams that are relying on three freshmen the way that we are,” Musselman said. “We’re not just relying on them in the SEC, we’re relying on them to win, we’re relying on them to score baskets.”