Inside and out, Arkansas is too much for Alabama


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- At its optimum, the Arkansas Razorbacks' attack should resemble "The Pound and the Fury."

That is to say, that the Hogs should maintain a furious defensive pressure that leads to turnovers and thus to easy baskets.

As for the pound, well, that's left to Oliver Miller, Arkansas' 6-foot-9, 286-pound center.

If Miller is hitting his shots inside, and he's leading the NCAA with a gaudy 70 percent shooting clip, then Todd Day, the Razorbacks' silky smooth swingman, can operate where he needs to.

All that happened here at the Charlotte Coliseum last night, as top seed Arkansas knocked off fourth seed Alabama 93-70 to advance to tomorrow's Southeast Regional championship game against third-seeded Kansas.

Though not immediately successful, the Razorbacks' pressure, the centerpiece of what coach Nolan Richardson politely describes as "40 minutes of hell," exacted its toll on Alabama, forcing the Crimson Tide, who tried an unsuccessful press of their own, into 26 turnovers.

"The pressure won't bother you if you have a cool head. But we didn't have a cool head and the pressure caused turnovers," said Alabama forward Robert Horry.

"Arkansas is so quick, pressing them more would have created a high tempo and we were having enough trouble as it was," said Alabama coach Wimp Sanderson. "Let's face it, we got beat by a team that was better than we are. That was obvious."

But not at the beginning. The Crimson Tide (23-10) stayed with Arkansas (34-3) through most of the first half, largely because of the absence of Miller, who missed the last 15 minutes of the half with an ailing groin and two quick fouls.

When Miller returned for second-half duty, Lee Mayberry, the team's point guard, and Day, both juniors, got their games going.

Mayberry had 15 of his 16 points in the second half, and Day, rumored to be considering forgoing his senior year for early entry to the NBA, turned in a brilliant performance, scoring 31 points and pulling down seven rebounds.

"This was one of my better games," said Day. "In the last few games, teams have been on me a lot and leaving Oliver open in the middle. But tonight I was open for the first couple of shots. They went in and that got my confidence up."

And then there was Miller, who was the subject of hoots and jeers from the Alabama pep band, regarding his weight. Miller scored all but one of his 15 points in the second half, and also had seven rebounds.

"We need him on the floor," said Richardson. "We don't have an inside game without him. I just want to get 25 to 27 hard minutes out of him. When he is on the inside and is a threat, Lee and Todd have a field day outside."

That would appear to be the formula for a win tomorrow, and with it, a second straight trip to the Final Four. Sanderson is more than convinced that the Razorbacks, who will join Alabama in the Southeastern Conference next year, are capable of knocking off Kansas.

"Certainly the NCAA tournament committee knew what they were doing when they picked Arkansas as the No. 1 seed," said Sanderson.

"They have such good athletes and defensively they continue to harass. We handled it well for a while and then it just broke apart."

And Richardson says that despite the breakneck pace the Razorbacks play at and the limited rest, they will be ready to go Saturday.

"They are not tired. I'm not tired. And nobody is supposed to get tired," said Richardson. "I know they extend themselves every game, but they don't get tired until I get tired."

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