Anderson: Lacey, Releford key to stopping 'Bama

Alabama's Trevor Lacey shoots for 3 points over Tennessee's Josh Richardson during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Amy Smotherman Burgess)

Alabama's Trevor Lacey shoots for 3 points over Tennessee's Josh Richardson during an NCAA college basketball game in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/The Knoxville News Sentinel, Amy Smotherman Burgess)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Arkansas coach Mike Anderson says the two big keys to Alabama's offense are the Trevors.

Trevor Releford is the quick, savvy point guard who has been accurate from 3-point range but is more likely to make a quick beeline to the basket. Trevor Lacey has supplanted Releford as the Crimson Tide's assist leader and is also the team's most prolific perimeter shooter.

They've been the top players for an Alabama team that mostly relies on four-guard lineups and doesn't have an inside player averaging more than Nick Jacobs' 6.1 points going into Thursday night's matchup with the Razorbacks (12-7, 3-3 Southeastern Conference).

"I think that (Releford) is a real key to their basketball team as well as a guy like Lacey who time after time has made some incredible shots for them," Anderson said.

The Tide (12-7, 4-2) made the NCAA tournament last season largely with the scoring and rebounding of forwards JaMychal Green and, until his season-ending suspension, Tony Mitchell.

Alabama was solid on the boards but the SEC's worst 3-point shooting team at 28.9 percent.

Now, the Tide is pulling down a league-worst 31.6 rebounds a game but is third in 3-point shooting (35.7 percent).

"Last year, everything we got was somebody going and running a screen and the shots we did take, we weren't making," Releford said. "I feel like that really motivated me and the rest of the team this year to just come out and knock down shots. Just shoot it with confidence, I guess."

And play defense. The Tide has averaged 54 points over the last three games and won two of them.

Lacey couldn't get off a shot in last Saturday's 54-53 loss to Tennessee when he appeared to draw contact from Jarnell Stokes, but the fact that he was the guy with the shot says much about his role change as a sophomore.

Lacey is in the top 10 in assists and has made 46.2 percent of his 3-point attempts (12 of 26) in league play while averaging 12.1 points. That's a leap of nearly five a game from his freshman season when he frequently launched 3s but only hit at a 30-percent clip.

Releford's 16.1-point average ranks fifth in the SEC while he's third in field goal percentage (49.4), second-best from the free throw line (84.9) percent and fifth in steals with two a game. His scoring average has jumped four points from last season.

He still considers himself a point guard first.

"Everything with me is not scoring," Releford said. "It's more of getting everybody involved with passing and if the opportunity is there, take it. And with Lacey, his situation is different, because that's what he does. He's a scorer. Coach asks him to score. My place is just taking what they give me and don't force it.

"I can score, but that's not the first thing I look to do."

Releford is more likely to drive to the basket than shoot a 3, though his 45.5 percent clip from beyond the arc leads the team. He's also the most experienced player on a team heavy on sophomores and Anderson says he's "crafty with the basketball."

"I think you've got to keep him out of the lane," the Razorbacks coach said. "He's a real clever basketball player. I think he's one of the old-school guys. He's like a little coach out on the floor, and it just seems like when he's playing well, they play well."

Indeed, Alabama is 2-4 when he doesn't reach 14 points.

Lacey and Releford are the only Tide players who have scored 20 in a game, and both have done it three times.

Alabama coach Anthony Grant emphasizes the ability of both Trevors to set up their teammates, not just their scoring.

"Releford is playing really well in terms of providing our team with scoring opportunities, Grant said. "I think he's learning how to take advantage of some of the skills of his teammates. Lacey's doing a good job. He's getting a lot of attention in terms of the way teams are playing him. He's making the game easier for his teammates. At the end of the day it's a basketball game and that's what you want to have your guys be able to do."

___

AP Sports Writer Kurt Voigt in Fayetteville, Ark., contributed to this report.

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