Bama Beats Lobos To Move On In NIT

New Mexico may not have had much time to get ready for Alabama in the National Invitation Tournament, but the Lobos also didn't have much trouble figuring out how to play the Crimson Tide. The New Mexico had an effective first half strategy of keeping the ball out of the hands of JaMychal Green down low.

With no inside game, or inside-out game, Alabama was relegated to outside shots (not usually a good thing) or trying to drive through the New Mexico zone.

It didn't help that Green was in early foul trouble and played only seven minutes of the first half, contributing two points and two rebounds. (Green got his third foul less than a minute into the second half, forcing his way in for a player control violation, and finished with only six points in 20 minutes.)

But the Tide made the adjustment against the Lobos. It was called Releford and Mitchell with a dose of Davis. Oh, and Green came back with block shot and rebound help. Additionally, Bama knows something about defense, too. And when Alabama got its running game going, there was no New Mexico defense.

The Crimson Tide broke open a close game with a dominating second half, making 15 of 20 field goal attempts, and defeated New Mexico, 74-67, in Coleman Coliseum Monday night. A late flurry of Lobos three-point shots while Bama was struggling at the free throw line in the final moments made the game closer than it appeared it would be. The Tide led by double digits most of the second half.

With the win, Bama advances to the third round of the NIT. Alabama, the only number one seed left in the NIT bracket, will play Miami in Colemnan Coliseum at a time to be announced Wednesday. Miami defeated Missouri State, 81-72, earlier Monday. Miami is the second seed in the bracket.

The winner of Wednesday's game advances to the semifinals of the NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York for a game March 29. The championship game is March 31.

Alabama improved to 23-11, while New Mexico's season ends at 22-13.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "I thought this was a very good matchup. New Mexico is a very talented team. We knew we would have to do a good job on the defensive end. That's what we prepped for. We didn't close it out with the free throws, but I thought it was a great effort. We controlled the backboards. There were a lot of good things that contributed to the win."

Alabama was led by Tony Mitchell with 23 points and Trevor Releford with 20. Charvez Davis had 14 points. Releford also had six assists. Mitchell had three steals and a blocked shot.

Alabama finished with 53.1 per cent shooting from the field (26-49) while holding New Mexico to 37.9 per cent (22-58). Alabama had a 37-32 advantage in rebounds.

The Tide was uncharacteristically poor on free throw shooting, particularly down the stretch. Bama finished with 16-30 (53.3 per cent) and in the final two minutes was only 4-13.

Alabama had a 38-24 scoring advantage in the paint. The Tide also had the advantage in points off turnovers, getting 23 points off New Mexico's 12 turnovers, while the Lobos got 17 points off Bama's 13 turnovers. Bama had 15 fast break points, the Lobos only two.

Alabama had a five-point lead, 30-26, at halftime and New Mexico immediately cut it to two points with a three-point shot. But the Lobos would never tie the game or get the lead in the second half.

After New Mexico struck first in the second half, Releford, who had key plays at the end of the first half, got back-to-back layups and Mitchell followed with a slam on an alley oop pass from Senario Hillman. Green's frustration-easing slam gave the Tide a seven-point lead.

When New Mexico cut the lead to two points at 38-36, Mitchell had a spectacular slam putback, followed seconds later by Releford making a steal, layup, and free throw to put the lead back out to 43-36.

Bama put the lead into double figures at 49-39 on a Mitchell layup and the Tide would have as much as an 18 point lead with 5:19 to play. New Mexico got three three-point shots in the final 46 seconds of the game from Kendall Williams, who finished with 18 points.

The first half was marked by four ties and five lead changes with Bama emerging with a 30-26 lead on Trevor Releford's five points in a span of 36 seconds near the end of the period.

New Mexico opened the game with back-to-back three-point shots by Phillip McDonald, but Alabama went on a 12-0 run for a six-point lead. Alabama held the lead until The Lobos tied it at 17-17 on a second chance three-pointer by Jamal Fenton with 8:50 to play.

The Lobos took their final lead of the first half at 26-25 with a minute to play.

Releford drove the lane with 46 seconds to play and made a basket to put the Tide back in the lead. He was fouled, and although he missed the free throw, the New Mexico rebounder stepped out of bounds. Given another chance Alabama worked and worked and worked, with Releford getting off a desperation buzzer beater that went off the backboard and in for three points with 11 seconds to play, accounting for the 30-26 lead at intermission.

New Mexico Coach Steve Alford said, "I thought the end of the first half was...We end up down four instead of maybe being up and getting the ball in the second half. You can see why Alabama leads the nation in points in the paint.

"Alabama is very good on defense. They are not a good jump shooting team and the staff has done a good job of getting them to do the things they need to win, particularly on the defensive end."

TIDE NOTES: Alabama used what most would consider to be its normal starting lineup of Trevor Releford, Charvez Davis, Tony Mitchell, Chris Hines, and JaMychal Green. Senario Hillman, Charles Hankerson, and Ben Eblen all were in early in relief.

And with 46 seconds to play in the first half and Releford shooting a free throw, freshman Carl Engstrom went into the game for defensive purposes. However, when New Mexico turned it over on the rebound, Engstrom was out with one second of playing time. But he got back in for the final nine seconds of the first half, a total of 10 seconds.

Alabama is now 18-0 in Coleman Coliseum.

With 15:32 left in the half Senario Hillman picked up his 174th career steal to tie Terry Coner for the career lead in the category at UA.

After falling behind, 6-0, Alabama assembled a 12-0 run to tie for its fourth biggest run of the season and 21st run of 10-0 or greater.

With its first-half leads, New Mexico became just the 11th opponent to hold a lead on UA at home this season and just the fourth non-conference team to do so.

New Mexico became the 20th opponent this season to score less than 30 points in the opening half.

All nine UA players that hit the court recorded a rebound.

Alabama led at halftime for the 23rd time this season. UA is now 20-3 when leading at half this season.

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