Alabama beats Arkansas in OT to secure double bye in SEC Tournament

Arkansas guard Khalif Battle (0) blocks a shot by Alabama guard Mark Sears (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 9, 2024, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Mark Sears scored 22 points and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. had 20, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 22 seconds to go to force overtime, as No. 16 Alabama rallied to beat Arkansas 92-88 on Saturday.

Sam Walters scored seven of his 10 points in overtime, including a go-ahead 3-pointer, for Alabama (21-10, 13-5 Southeastern Conference) which never led in regulation. The Crimson Tide secured a double bye in the SEC Tournament next week with the win.

“I’m just happy to be back out there and do something for our team to get the win,” Wrightsell said of his game-tying shot. “Whatever they needed I was going to do it to help us win. I didn’t realize how big a shot it was at the moment.”

Khalif Battle led Arkansas (15-16, 6-12) with 22 points and Makhi Mitchell scored 18. Tramon Mark scored 13 and Travon Brazille had 12.

It was the first start for Wrightsell since Feb. 17. He sustained a head injury in practice and missed three straight games.

Wrightsell’s return was a welcome sight for a Crimson Tide team that struggled from the 3-point line in his absence. Wrightsell led Alabama on Saturday, going 4 for 8 from deep.

“We needed him in a bad way,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “If we had him in those games where he was out, we definitely wouldn’t have lost some of the ones we did. We might have had a league championship if he hadn’t gone down.”

Grant Nelson scored 14 and Nick Pringle and Aaron Estrada had 10 each for Alabama, which took its first lead 30 seconds into OT.

Arkansas opened the game with a 10-2 run along with three forced turnovers to set the tone early.

The Razorbacks dominated with 22 points in the paint in the first half while shooting 52% from the field. Arkansas limited Alabama to 36% shooting and outrebounded it, 22-18.

Sears, Alabama’s leading scorer this season, didn’t hit his first basket until midway through the first half.

“They were ready to play, we were not,” Oats said of the first half. “We weren’t ready to go until the end of the game. I think our energy was much better to start the second half. We played much better once we decided to play defense and not turn the ball over.”

Both teams had 15 turnovers, but Alabama had just three in the second half and none in overtime.

Arkansas stumbled in the second half, shooting 1 of 11 at one point, but going 13 for 13 from the foul line kept the Razorbacks in control. Arkansas was 24 of 27 overall at the line while Alabama was 17 of 25.

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas dropped their seventh SEC road game of the season, while Alabama secured back-to-back 13-win SEC records for first time since 1986-87.

UP NEXT

Arkansas and Alabama head to the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee.