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Three keys: Alabama at Arkansas

2/23/2012

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- University of Alabama coach Anthony Grant confirmed Tuesday that previously suspended power forward JaMychal Green will not play against Arkansas on Thursday. Grant said he will reevaluate his status and would not say whether he would play against Mississippi State at home on Saturday.

Green, the team’s leader in points per game, was reinstated for practice on Monday.

As for Tony Mitchell, who was suspended for the remainder of the season on Monday, Grant said he was unsure whether his second-leading scorer would come back for his senior season in 2013.

As for those who will suit up and travel to Arkansas, Grant had plenty to say.

Hostile territory

The Tide won’t have the numbers on its side when it pulls into Fayetteville, Ark., on Thursday. The Razorbacks lost their first game at home all season when the top-25 Florida Gators walloped them by 30 points in Bud Walton Arena on Saturday.

“Our guys will be aware of it,” Grant said. “Obviously, there’s been a lot said of their success at home and we’re fully aware of that. Any time you go on the road you’re going to be in a hostile environment and Arkansas, in my opinion, is one of the best environments in our league, if not the country.”

Andrew Steele said on Tuesday that the team is prepared to go on the road and handle the pressure of facing such a difficult road environment. The redshirt junior put it in simple terms, saying it was his understanding that “the crowd can’t come on the court.”

Revenge game for Arkansas?

Arkansas will have the added incentive of playing the first game since losing to Florida at home. The four-day layoff will no doubt fuel the Razorbacks eagerness for revenge when the Tide comes to town. On top of that, Alabama has already beaten Arkansas once this season, a 6-point win in late January.

Grant, who watched tape of the Florida game and others played by Arkansas, said the loss to the Gators shouldn’t be read into too heavily. He considered it more of a fluke than the norm.

“I think their last game Florida played extremely well,” Grant said. “You look at the numbers Florida put up from an offensive standpoint, the way they shot the three, the number of times they got to the free throw line -- they had a lot of success. I don’t know that there’s anything that you can do when a team comes in playing the way they did. You look at the entire body of work over the course of the season ... they’ve got one loss. You look at the extremes and throw those out and they’ve been very consistent the way they’ve played at home.

Hoping for a repeat

Against Tennessee on Saturday, a lot of things went right for Alabama. Moussa Gueye and Carl Engstrom played solid minutes and the Tide took care of the basketball better on offense than in past games. Grant was unusually emotional on the sidelines, pumping his fist and congratulating his team’s effort on the court. But no player showed more against the Vols than freshman guard Trevor Lacey, who started only his 13th game of the year on Saturday, went off for 18 points. The once-heralded recruit out of Huntsville attacked the basket and drew a career-high 12 foul shots.

Grant said the gameplan on Saturday wasn’t different, just the way Lacey executed and enforced his will on the game.

“I thought he did a great job of being aggressive," Grant said. "We need him to continue to play that way.”

If Alabama is to upset Arkansas on the road, Lacey will have a lot to do with it. If he can get to the rim and get the Razorbacks’ big men in foul trouble, it could pay huge dividends.