Tide Bench Comes Up Big In Bama Win

Alabama basketball Coach Anthony Grant has settled on his eight-man rotation for the Southeastern Conference season. And Grant knew going in that to have a chance against 12th-ranked Kentucky, he would need contributions on the statistics sheet and the playing surface from all eight.

He got it, by the hair on Ben Eblen's chinny-chin-chin. Eblen came up with a loose ball and split a pair of free throws with 2.5 seconds left to help Alabama to a heart-stopping 68-66 upset of Kentucky before a raucous Coleman Coliseum crowd of 14,859.

The official stats showed the Kentucky bench with a 17-15 scoring edge. In this case, statistics are for losers. (All of the Wildcats bench points came from Terrence Jones, who really isn't a sub. He has come off the bench the past few games as Coach John Calipari has tinkered with the lineup. JOnes is Kentucky's leading scorer.)

"Ben (Eblen) did a great job," Tide Coach Anthony Grant said. "You look at the last two defensive possessions, and Ben did a great job denying the ball and taking the play away. I'm happy for him to have the opportunity to step in and impact the game the way he did.

"I thought we got contributions from everybody who stepped on the floor. Senario Hillman came in and really impacted the game early. Andrew Steele was terrific. He played the three, the four, whatever we needed him to play. There at the end of the game, when Trevor (Releford) had to come out with cramps, I'm not sure where Andrew was playing," Grant said.

Added Calipari, "We just have young guys. We made errors today, but you've got to give Alabama credit. They played well. They came out with energy. They made the shots they had to make, and they were muscling us around the goal. We knew we had a disadvantage inside.

"That will to win that we had a year ago; we don't have that. Alabama deserved to win. They played better than us, and rougher than us."

Every Tider who played, scored. Each also found other ways to contribute to the win. Eblen's gathering up the loose ball at the end was huge at the end. Steele hit a three-pointer earlier in the second half to just beat the shot clock. Hillman was active on both ends, with seven points, two boards and two steals.

"Everybody knew what they had to do," said sophomore forward Tony Mitchell. "They put themselves on the line when they came in, and were productive."

"The bench did a great job," said junior foward JaMychal Green. "They came in and were very productive. That's what it's going to take for us to win games."

Green led all scorers with 18 points and all boarders with 11 rebounds. The junior overcame six costly turnovers to find ways to help his team win.

Tony Mitchell beat the shot clock twice with long treys, scoring 15 points to go with seven boards. Green and Mitchell helped the Tide out-rebound the Wildcats, 41-34.

"I knew that if we out-rebounded them, we had a chance to win," Green said.

Thing was, the Wildcats cut Bama's 20-point lead to one and had a late shot to win it.

"It's a 40-minute game," Grant said. "I thought we got caught up in the emotion of the game, and we wasted energy. We made some mental errors.

"We had a big cushion, which is why we survived."

"Good teams make good runs," Mitchell pointed out. "They hit some good shots, but we came back and fought a little harder.

"This feels great. Our fans helped us out a lot."

"We came back, but they pulled it out at the end," said Doron Lamb, who scored 16 for Kentucky.

Charvez Davis had nine points on 3-10 shooting. Chris Hines scored seven points and grabbed eight boards. Hillman also had seven points. Steele had five, Trevor Releford had four points, and  Eblen three.

Hines and Green each blocked two shots. Green had game high rebounding honors with 11.

After struggling behind the arc in it's first three league games, Alabama 7-of-14 on this winning night.

Bottom line: the Tide is now 3-1 in the league because it did just enough good things to beat the No. 12 team in the USA. However, there's little time to celebrate.

Green apparently has been paying close attention to his coach. "It's a great confidence boost, but it's just one game," he said. "Now, we've got to get ready for Auburn."

The Tide makes its first trip to the first-year Auburn Arena Saturday for a 5 p.m. CST game against the Tigers.

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