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THURSDAY, JANUARY 19, 2006
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Alabama's Jermareo Davidson shoots over Arkansas' Steven Hill.
AP Photo by Michelle Williams
Alabama's Jermareo Davidson shoots over Arkansas' Steven Hill.

A man of Steele
Tide guard turns back
Arkansas for OT win

By Kyle Veazey
DAILY Sports Writer

kveazey@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — The crowd groaned, the clock ticked and a second overtime seemed imminent.

Alabama's Ron Steele had had enough.

With his team tied with Arkansas as the clock wound under 10 seconds, Steele went to rescue the ball from teammate Jean Felix. Steele dribbled around the top of the key, then took off for the post, where his layup curled in and Eric Ferguson was whistled for a foul. Steele's free throw was good.

So when Ronnie Brewer's half-court desperation shot bounced high off the glass at the buzzer, Steele reveled in Alabama's win, 78-75 in overtime against the visiting Razorbacks, which he played a major role in engineering.

"I saw a crack in the defense," said Steele, who scored a career-high 25 points. "The big guy didn't really commit to me. So I felt like I had a good layup and I was fortunate to make it."

Alabama (10-6, 3-1 SEC) continued on its wild Southeastern Conference schedule post-Chuck Davis. Since the all-SEC player went out during the team's league-opening loss to Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide has won three straight — all with the help of significant second-half comebacks.

On Wednesday night, the comeback number was 13. The Tide trailed by that much at 51-38 when Arkansas' Ronnie Brewer made a free throw with 12:22 left.

Though the Tide slowly started to chip at the Hogs' lead, it still seemed futile when Felix missed a potentially game-tying 3-pointer with 32 seconds left, and Arkansas' Dontell Jefferson soon walked to the other end for a one-and-one.

From the floor, Alabama center Jermareo Davidson noticed.

"(The crowd) kind of started leaving a little early," he said.

But Jefferson missed the front end, setting up Steele.

Again.

Working to create a 2-pointer at the top of the key, Steele picked up his dribble, then leaned in on his defender, Jefferson, half-heartedly attempting the shot.

"It was pretty much a panic move," Steele said.

Jefferson was called for a foul, and Steele stepped to the line with 10.2 seconds left needing to make all three foul shots to force overtime. He made all three.

"I'm not sure there's another player in America I'd like to have on the line than Ron Steele," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said.

Arkansas coach Stan Heath didn't agree with the call on Jefferson, and pointed out Alabama's 33-9 free throw advantage in his post game news conference.

"It's hard to win when you feel like you defend a play really well and a guy gets three free throws," Heath said.

The Razorbacks (12-5, 1-3) have lost three league games by a total of 10 points.

"They just made bigger plays down the stretch than we did," said Brewer, who scored 22.

"We lost a tough one that we could have won."

Alabama escaped Coleman Coliseum with yet another dose of confidence, a week and a half after Davis' injury foreshadowed potential disaster.

Now Alabama will face co-Western Division-leading LSU on Saturday in Baton Rouge.

"A lot of people wrote us off," Steele said. "It feels good being around these guys. We have a lot of character. Just refuse to lose. Just keep fighting. I don't really know what to say."

Gottfried does, and it's specifically about Steele.

"Great players take their teams to great heights, and he does that with us," Gottfried said.

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