Hillman Making First Trip To NYC

Alabama senior guard Senario Hillman has never been to New York City. He's going now. Hillman came off the bench to score 17 points and set a school record in Alabama's 79-64 win over Miami in the NIT quarterfinals at Coleman Coliseum.

Senario Hillman made the most of his 23 minutes on the floor for Alabama Wednesday night, adding five rebounds, an assist, a block and a record-breaking steal in his 23 minutes. He fouled out with 2:03 left to a huge ovation.

"I'm really happy about this game. I was jacked. I feel like it was one of my best games," Hillman said. "I was attacking. I went out there and played hard and tried to help my team win."

In the process, Hillman dove on the floor in the first half to recover a ball he had poked loose That effort gave the 6-foot-1 jumping jack from Irwinton, Ga the 175th steal of his career in Tuscaloosa, surpassing Terry Coner's 174 from 1984-87.

"I tried not to focus on that tonight. I just went out and played," said Hillman.

That he did. And well,

"Senario stepped up tonight," said junior JaMychal Green. "He should have gotten (ESPN2) Player of the Game. He's a leader on the floor He made big plays. He finished at the rim. He just had an all-around great game."

Hillman had a monstrous dunk with 12 minutes to go to help thwart a Miami crowd. That jam seemed to ignite both the crowd and his team, putting the Tide up five after the ‘Canes had earlier narrowed the margin to one.

"I think it did. It gave momentum to us on the defensive end," Hillman said.

When he scouted the Tide, Miami Coach Frank Haith saw Hillman's defense, but not a 17-point scorer. "He's an athlete. We didn't do a good job of keeping him off the glass. He scored a lot of points in transition and off (offensive) rebounds."

No one was prouder of Hillman's winning send-off effort than his coach, Anthony Grant. "I'm so happy and proud of him. For Senario, it's a great way to end his career here at home. We all know he's had to sacrifice a little this year. To have him go out and perform the way he did on both ends of the floor as a senior and as a leader, and to help our team be able to play for an NIT championship, I couldn't be happier for him.

"Our seniors are so excited and so happy. They stayed together and believed in each other."

NOTES: Through the first 13:20 of the first half Miami committed more turnovers (9) than it had in either of its previous two NIT contests. The Hurricanes finished the half with 11 turnovers

With his 16 points, sophomore forward Tony Mitchell has scored in double figures in 33 of UA's 35 games this season.

Though the crowd was announced at 8,612. There seemed to be many more. That number obviously did not include the first 1,000 to arrive, who were admitted free. The crowd actually included a dozen or so Miami fans.

The Hurricanes' school colors are orange and green, but they wore black uniforms trimmed in orange on this night.

Several prospects were in attendance Wednesday. One is very well-known, but another is not. Until now, anyway. Butler Huntsville guard Trevor Lacey was in town for the game, and was seen signing autographs for kids. Students chanted his name, which Lacey also seemed to enjoy.

Also on hand was 6-6 2015 prospect Danjel Purifoy, a 6-6 forward who played varsity as an 8th-grader at Bibb County High. Purifoy was getting the lay of the land from Tide Director of Basketball Ops Antoine Pettway. Now, if Grant were seriously considering other jobs (he's not), would he have invited a kid to the game with four years of high school left? You decide.

The Tide will now face the Colorado Buffaloes, who won 81-74 in Boulder over Kent State Tuesday night. That next game will be at New York's Madison Square Garden on March 29. Tip time is set for 8 p.m. CDT on ESPN2.

Bama (24-11) came in having won 18 of its last 23 games. In those contests, only nine opponents scored more than 60 points in regulation. One reason: the UA defense is surrendering but 59 points per game, good for eighth in America. Miami came in having scored 80 or more points in its last two games.

With its 19-0, school record home mark, the Tide has now won 20 straight games in the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum, dating back to last season's final home win over Auburn.

Trevor Releford set a career-high with 22 points. The freshman had scored 20 twice, against New Mexico and Seton Hall.

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