Tide Has Easy Time In NIT Opener

Concerns about the Crimson Tide being able to rebound from the disappointment of not getting an NCAA bid were not in evidence in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night. Alabama had a blowout going in the first half, and then really blew up Coastal Carolina in the second half to advance to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.

Alabama was never threatened as the Crimson Tide rolled over Coastal Carolina 68-44 in a game that wasn't that close. The Tide had led by as many as 20 points in the first half and held a 38-22 lead at halftime. The Chanticleers didn't get past the 38-point mark the Tide posted in the first half until less than three minutes remained in the game.

Although many thought Alabama should have been selected for the NCAA Tournament, Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant said, "That's behind us. We needed to turn the page. That's the message we tried to send the last two days. I think our players got the message."

Coastal Carolina Coach Cliff Ellis said Alabama "will go a long way (in the NIT). They are a team that should be in the NCAA Tournament."

Ellis said, "We felt we would get (to play) a team that either was brooding or would be out to make a statement. They were out to make a statement."

Alabama, one of four number one seeds in the tournament, advances to second round play against the winner of the New Mexico-UTEP game, being played later. The game will be played in Coleman Coliseum at a day and time to be announced later.

Bama is now 22-11. Coastal Carolina ends its season at 28-6.

Although Tony Mitchell didn't start the game because of some injury issues, his three three-point shots in the first half gave Bama a jump start to victory. Mitchell was one of three Alabama players to finish with 12 points. He was joined with a dozen by Trevor Releford and Charvez Davis. Senario Hillman had 11 points, all in the second half. JaMychal Green had 9 poins and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes of play.

Alabama held the Chanticleers to 33 per cent shooting (16-48) from the field, while Bama made 29-61 field goals (47.5 per cent). The Tide was good on 7-20 three-point shots, while Coastal Carolina made 5-15.

The Chanticleers were led by Chad Gray and Anthony Raffa, both of whom made 4-11 field goals and had 10 points.

For a brief period early in the second half, Bama went to a press and it was very effective. The Tide doubled the score on the Chanticleers at 54-27 and again at 58-29 before the 11 minute mark of the period. Bama's largest lead was 30 points at 68-38.

Charvez Davis said, "That's our style of play. We were able to get some steals and turn them into baskets."

Grant said, "We wanted to get them out of rhythm, get them out of sorts and I think that affected their shooting percentage."

Ellis said, "Their press affected us. We thought we had to limit turnovers and rebound with them. We were able to rebound with them, but those buckets off our turnovers were the difference."

Alabama had 13 steals, Coastal Carolina only 4. Bama scored 29 points off Coastal Carolina's 19 turnovers. The Tide had 11 turnovers, but those led to only 10 points for the Chanticleers. Bama had 16 fast break points to only five for Coastal Carolina.

Alabama outscored Coastal Carolina 38-21 in the paint, although the Tide had only a 35-33 advantage in rebounds.

Alabama took the lead for good four and a half minutes into the game when Chris Hines scored on a fast break and with the free throw gave Bama an 8-5 lead. The Tide pulled away when Tony Mitchell hit back-to-back three-point shots for a 16-7 advantage, and Mitchell's third trey of the half made it 25-16 with just under seven minute to play in the half. Alabama had a 10-0 run in that stretch.

Bama had a 15-point lead when Mitchell made a free throw with 4:02 to play, and a Trevor Releford layup off an schoolyard inbounds play gave the Tide a 20-point lead, 38-18, late in the half. Releford was throwing the ball in, bounced it off the back of a defender to himself, and put it in.

The Chanticleers cut it to 38-22 at halftime.

Bama had held Coastal Carolina to only 30.8 per cent shooting on 8-26 field goals in the first half. Alabama made 16-29 for 55.2 per cent. The Tide had a 20-13 rebounding margin.

Grant: "We're excited about the win. We knew Coastal Carolina was a dangerous team. They had a great season. Our emphasis was on playing on the defensive end, playing to our identity, and I thought we did that."

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