Bama's Basketball Funeral Delayed

ATLANTA -- It was, to coin a phrase, a comeback of Lazarusian proportions. Down 14 points to Georgia with 7:33 to go in the Southeastern Conference Basketball Tournament at the Georgia Dome Friday, Alabama rallied to force overtime and came away with a 65-59 win that players on both teams won't soon forget.

Overtime highlights for Alabama included a Tony Mitchell three-pointer, three defensive stops, and clutch foul shooting (7-for-10 in the extra period).

"The fight that our guys showed was incredible," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. "This win came down to style of play. Our defense got the job done, and we just kept chipping away."

Grant added that JaMychal Green, Charvez Davis and Senario Hillman showed good verbal leadership down the stretch. "At times this year, that (leadership) wasn't there," he said.

The win improved Alabama's record to 21-10 overall and may have propelled the Crimson Tide into the NCAA Tournament. Bama's resume includes a 5-2 record against SEC Eastern Division teams. Georgia has been considered an NCAA team and Alabama's win over the Bulldogs was its second in a week. Bama came into the tournament with a 12-4 SEC record and runaway winner of the Western Division.

In any event, Alabama plays on. The Crimson Tide will meet the winner of the Kentucky-Ole Miss game in the semifinals Saturday. ABC will televise the game, which begins at 1 p.m. EST (noon central time). During regular season play, Alabama defeated Kentucky by 68-66 in Tuscaloosa, defeated Ole Miss 74-64 in Tuscaloosa, and lost to Mississippi 63-68 in Oxford.

One key to Friday's victory was holding Georgia star Travis Leslie to nine points in the second half after he'd tallied 15 in the first 20 minutes.

"Coach (Grant) just looked at Tony Mitchell and said, ‘Cut the head off the monster,'" said freshman guard Trevor Releford.

Added Green, "(Grant) looked at Tony and told him to man up. Tony did a great job on (Leslie) in the second half."

Bama won the second half of regulation 32-23 to tie matters, and took the extra period by 12-6. Bama outscored the Dogs 19-5 during final 7:33 of regulation.

"We told each other we had to keep fighting and get the job done," Green said.

"You have to credit Alabama," said Bulldogs Coach Mark Fox. "They made the plays late, and we didn't close the game. We saw some signs of fatigue in the second half.

"This is a very hard loss."

Added Georgia guard Dustin Ware, "They're a very good defensive team. They started pressuring the ball a lot. They made the plays late, and we didn't."

Green led Bama with 20 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. He was joined in double digits by Davis (15 points) and Mitchell (10 points, five boards). Releford and Hines scored nine each, and Hines grabbed nine caroms.

The Tide was held scoreless the first 2:21 until a pair of Releford free throws made it 6-2 Bulldogs. After a Mitchell trey cut it to 8-5, a Green drive and Chris Hines lay-up capped a 9-2 run that gave Bama its first lead at 9-8, a lead the Tide took into the first media time out.

Georgia (21-11, 9-8) was not going away, though. The Dogs scored six straight before Charvez Davis hit a three-pointer. He hit another to tie matters at 19 with just under six minutes to go in the first stanza.

That would be the final tie until the final four seconds. The Dogs got back-to-back treys from Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware. When Trey Thompkins made it three straight triples, Grant took time out at the 4:26 mark with his team down nine. Those three three-pointers were the difference as the teams headed to the half with Georgia leading, 30-21.

The half time stats showed why: Georgia out-shot the Tide, 42 to 33 per cent, and out-rebounded Alabama 18-13. The Dogs were 3-for-5 on three-pointers while Bama struggled at a 3-for-10 clip. The Dogs led 9-0 on second chance points, many resulting from those "50-50" loose balls coaches like Grant preach about.

"We were beating ourselves, at first," said Releford. "Once we started playing together, things got better."

The Tide drew to within six early in the half, but when the Dogs pushed the lead back to 10 points, Grant took time out at the 13:33 mark.

Bama cut the lead to four on a Davis steal and lay-in with just over three minutes left, but Georgia responded with a Trey Thompkins old-fashioned three-point play. Another Davis trey got the Tide back to within four, and Trevor Releford split two from the line to make it 52-49 Georgia with 2:02 left.

With 19.6 to go, Georgia's Gerald Robinson missed a jumper that caromed off the back board out of bounds, allowing Alabama to play for the last shot down 53-51. After a Grant time out, Releford drove for the tying bucket (a left-handed layup) with 4.2 seconds to play.

Before Georgia could get its final shot away, Fox called a time out with 0.8 second to play. Although the shot went in causing some controversy, it is possible the shot would have been waved off and regulation time over without the time out. Following the time out, Thompkins's desperation shot was partially blocked by Green and not close, sending the game to overtime, the teams tied at 53-53.

"I thought we had about two seconds left," Fox said.

Davis had to leave the game with an injury with 1:54 left in the overtime with the game tied at 59. Afterwards the senior said he was fine and "just caught a cramp."

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