LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — For the first time in school history, an unranked University of Arkansas men's basketball team led at the half against a school ranked in the top three.
But like in its first meeting against No. 2 Alabama (25-4, 15-1 SEC) on Jan. 11, the Hogs (19-10, 8-8) failed to close it out down the stretch, falling to the Crimson Tide 86-83 Saturday afternoon at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Freshman guard Nick Smith scored a game-high 24 points for the Razorbacks on 9-of-23 shooting with six rebounds and one assist, while junior guard Davonte Davis added 21 points and five rebounds.
Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council, whose potential game-tying three-pointer fell short at the buzzer, delivered 20 points and one rebound off the bench.
Both teams started the game slowly. Alabama missed its first seven shots and the Razorbacks started 2-of-5 shooting.
However, Arkansas started to settle in after Council and Smith made a pair of mid-range jumpers to give the Razorbacks a 13-10 lead with 11:14 to play in the first half.
Arkansas shot 41.4% from the floor and was 5-of-10 from behind the arc, but its nine missed free throws (20-29) proved to be costly.
Early foul trouble plagued the Hogs as freshman guard Anthony Black and senior forward Makhi Mitchell picked up two fouls each in the first 10 minutes.
The fouls forced Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman to sit Black midway through the opening half, and the Crimson Tide's offense started to spark.
Alabama took its first lead of the game after a basket by freshman forward Brandon Miller put the Tide ahead 17-15 with 8:27 remaining in the first half.
Miller poured in 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting and grabbed six rebounds to lead Alabama. Senior guard Jahvon Quinerly contributed 16 points, three rebounds and a game-high seven assists for the Crimson Tide, while junior guard Mark Sears added 13 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Arkansas responded and kicked it into another gear in the final seven minutes of the opening half.
Davis nailed a three-pointer to put the Razorbacks ahead 24-20 with 6:33 to play. Then, he made a tough layup off the glass against the 6-foot-9-inch Miller.
The Hogs kept their foot on the gas, putting together a 16-3 run to take a 37-28 lead into the half.
The nine points were the second-largest of the season for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama came out of the break with a chip on its shoulder and outscored Arkansas 19-9 in the first six minutes of the opening half to take a 47-46 lead with 14:02 remaining thanks to a layup by Miller.
The Crimson Tide shot 45.3% from the field, and despite leading the SEC in three-point shooting, they finished 3-of-22 from behind the arc.
From there, Alabama held the Hogs scoreless for nearly seven minutes and built an 11-point lead with 3:42 to play.
That's when the Razorbacks came roaring back.
Smith picked up a steal and took it the other way for two points, cutting the Crimson Tide's lead to 75-70.
Arkansas crept within two points with 10 seconds to play, but Alabama made its free throws to seal its first regular season sweep over the Hogs since 2012.
The Razorbacks return to action on Tuesday at Tennessee. Coverage from Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tenn., begins at 8 p.m. Central on ESPN2.