TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA - Even Ronald Steele's ``panic move'' worked brilliantly for Alabama Wednesday night.
Steele forced overtime with three free throws following an offbalance 3-point attempt and converted another three-point play with 3.6 seconds left in overtime to lift Alabama to a 78-75 win over Arkansas.
His coach called Steele's performance ``fabulous'' and ``phenomenal'' and teammate Jermareo Davidson deemed it ``amazing.''
Steele, who finished with a career-high 25 points, was less complimentary of his own judgment with 10 seconds left in regulation. He was saved from an ill-chosen shot when he was fouled by Dontell Jefferson and then made all three from the line.
``It was pretty much a panic move,'' Steele said. ``I didn't really have a good shot.''
In overtime, he gave Eric Ferguson a head-fake and went by him to the basket, getting the layup and the foul from Ferguson. He made that one, too.
``I saw a crack in the defense,'' Steele said. ``The big guy didn't really commit to me and I felt like I had a good layup.''
As a result, the Crimson Tide (10-6, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) won its third consecutive game since losing leading scorer Chuck Davis to a season-ending knee injury.
The Razorbacks (12-5, 1-3), who had led by as many as 13 midway through the second half, had no more timeouts left to set up a final play. Charles Thomas passed it to Ronnie Brewer, who overshot an attempt from just before midcourt at the buzzer.
``I'm so proud of our guys for showing that kind of toughness and heart,'' Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. ``It was like the movie 'The Incredibles'. They're incredible.
``Ronald Steele made some fabulous plays. He was phenomenal.''
Ferguson tied the game at 75-all with a pullup jumper with 1:05 left in OT. Davidson collected his own missed shot and then grabbed another rebound after Jean Felix's missed 3-pointer, setting up a final shot for the Tide.
Davidson had 19 points and nine rebounds for Alabama. Richard Hendrix had 11 points and 11 boards and Felix finished with 12 points. Felix also scored after rebounding his own missed free throw late in the second half.
Ronnie Brewer had 19 of his 22 points after halftime for the Razorbacks, including four 3-pointers. Townes had 17 points and Charles Thomas added 12.
Brewer scored 10 consecutive points during one second-half stretch as the Razorbacks built a 51-38 lead.
``Brewer for a couple of minutes just absolutely took the game over,'' Gottfried said.
But Brewer and his teammates could only watch as Steele tied it up at the end of regulation.
``We didn't want to foul,'' said Brewer, who missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. ``We wanted them to have to hit a tough shot. Unfortunately, we bailed them out and they hit three free throws.''
Gottfried said he had no doubt Steele would convert the opportunity.
``I never in my mind thought he was going to miss one,'' he said. ``I was absolutely confident, and I know he was. There's not another player in America I'd rather have on the line than Ron Steele.''
The Tide spent plenty of time on the line. Alabama made 22-of-33 free throws while Arkansas was just 5-of-9, a disparity that frustrated Heath.
Arkansas post players Townes, Thomas and Steven Hill were all in foul trouble entering overtime. Hill, who had seven blocks, fouled out with 1:31 left in OT. The other two wound up with four fouls.
Heath declined to elaborate on his feelings of the officiating because the SEC would fine him.
``If I say it, it will cost me,'' Heath said.
The normally affable Heath cut the postgame interview session short.
``Any more questions?'' he said, pausing briefly. ``I'm done. Sorry, guys.''