Tide Gets Next Shot In Garden

Alabama didn't make it into the NCAA, but if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. The Crimson Tide defeated Miami, 79-64, in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament Wednesday and will head to Madison Square Garden for a chance at the championship.

Alabama, passed over for the NCAA Tournament, has been able to win three home games in the NIT in advancing to New York. Bama, the number one seed in the bracket, is now 24-11. Miami, the second seed, finished its season at 21-15. Although attendance was only 8,612, it was a raucous crowd, as coaches for both teams acknowledged.

Alabama will play Colorado in New York's Madison Square Garden at 9 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. central time) Tuesday on ESPN. Wichita State defeated College of Charleston earlier Wednesday and will play the winner of later game, Northwestern vs. Washington State. The championship game is Thursday, March 31.

Isn't it supposed to be JaMychal Green offense and Senario Hillman defense? It wasn't a complete role reversal, but there was Senario Hillman keying a second half Bama rally and JaMychal Green playing the defensive game of his life as the Crimson Tide finished its basketball season in Coleman Coliseum with a 19-0 record Wednesday night.

Hillman finished with 17 points in 23 minutes of play. He also picked up a steal, which made him the all-time Alabama career leader in that category. Green led Alabama with four steals.

Trevor Releford led the Tide with 22 points. Tony Mitchell had 16 points and Green 14.

Miami was led by Durand Scott with 19 points.

Alabama hit 30-55 field goals for 54.5 per cent, including another good second half of shooting (17-27 for 63 per cent). Miami made 23-57 for 40.4 per cent. The Hurricanes had 16 offensive rebounds and had a 36-34 advantage on the boards.

Bama outscored the Hurricanes in the paint, 46-34, and off turnovers, 29-15. Bama also had the advantage on fast break points, 16-4. Miami won the second chance points category, 17-12.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "It's an understatement to say it was a great win. The effort was outstanding. We wanted to finish at home, go 19-0, and all our guys came out with great pride and effort for a chance to continue our season."

He said he thought a danger was Miami's size and physicality and that Bama's advantage was in its speed. He said Bama has shown it can play various ways on defense and was proud of his players for taking the scouting report and executing.

"We came out sluggish in the second half, but then we picked it up," he said. "Other than that stretch in the second half, we continued to play."

Miami Coach Frank Haith said, "I thought they were a little quicker to the ball. Their athleticism took over in the second half. Our inability to keep them out of the paint and off the glass and our turnovers contributed to their success."

Alabama had a 10-point halftime lead at 36-26, but saw that advantage whittled to a point at 42-41 before pulling back out and pulling away from the Hurricanes.

The second half start was somewhat frantic by Miami, and it paid off. While Bama was missing shots and suffering turnovers, the Hurricanes were driving for the basket.

Miami started the second half with back-to-back slam dunks and a driving layup to cut the Tide's 10-point first half lead down to 36-32. That was the closest the score had been since Bama led 6-2. Moments later a desperation shot went in for the Hurricanes and it was 36-34, and eight-point run for Miami.

A runout slam by Tony Mitchell stopped the bleeding and then Trevor Releford had a length of court drive for a layup to make it 40-34. The Hurricanes answered with a trey. Mitchell made it 42-37 with a short jumper, but the Hurricanes weren't going away.

When the Hurricanes beat the press for a layup, Bama's lead was down to 42-41.

Free throws have not been good for Bama of late, and the Tide had been only 6-11 in the first half. But Charvez Davis made a pair with 13:17 to play to give the Tide a 44-41 lead and moments later Davis made a nice feed to Trevor Releford on a fast break for a 46-41 margin. A Senario Hillman putback dunk and a fullcourt Releford drive to a layup gave Bama some breathing room at 50-43 with 11:45 to play. Davis to Hillman for a nice layup made it 52-43.

As the clock went under 10 minutes, Hillman had another nice basket to keep the lead at nine, 54-45, after Miami made a pair of free throws.

Ben Eblen made a nifty feed to Mitchell in the middle and Bama was back up by double figures at 56-45.

Bama had weathered the Hurricanes run.

Hillman had another nice drive and shot, and Releford a steal and layup and it was 63-51. Hillman made another steal and went in for a layup and was fouled with 6:05 to play. Hillman had his 17th point when he made the free throw and Bama had a 66-51 lead. Moments later, Green made the steal at midcourt and drove for a thunderous dunk that made it 68-51.

Bama would cruise from there, leading by as many as 18 in the final minutes.

In the first half, Alabama's defense got the Tide off to a rocket start. After Miami took a 2-0 lead in the opening seconds, Bama ran off 11 in a row, most of them off Miami turnovers. Four minutes into the game Bama had a 10-point lead at 14-4 and would have as much as a 14-point lead at 24-10. At that point 15 of the Tide's two dozen points had come off Miami turnovers.

Alabama's hustling defense came at a price. JaMychal Green, who was playing as hard as he has in a Crimson Tide uniform, played only seven minutes in the first half for the second consecutive game as he picked up two fouls. Also with just seven minutes and two fouls was point guard Trevor Releford. Also with two fouls were starters Tony Mitchell and Charvez Davis.

Miami also had its foul problems with Durand Scott getting three in the first half and Reggie Johnson and DeQuan Jones picking up two each.

But in addition to a 36-26 halftime lead, Bama had forced the Hurricanes into 11 turnovers. Miami had only one first half assist and the Tide had eight steals, three of them by Green. Green made two of his steals in a trap 30 feet from the basket.

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