Wichita State Tops Tide In NIT Finals

NEW YORK -- It wasn't feeling too bad to be in the National Invitation Tournament as Alabama rolled to the championship game. But after Wichita State took the championship it was time again to complain about not being in the NCAA Tournament. Actually, in the moment, to be anywhere but on the loser's side.

Alabama had a horrible shooting night at Madison Square Garden and Wichita State shot it well, particularly late from three-point range, and ran away with what had been a close game for much of the night. The Shockers won the championship game, 66-57.

Alabama now has been to the NIT 11 times and never won. This was the Tide's second loss in the championship game.

The game was tied at 43-43 when Alabama hit the wall. Wichita State went on an eight-point run. Although Bama would get back within four points at 55-51 with just under six minutes to play, it was all Wichita State from that point.

The big damage came from the Shockers' Graham Hatch, who hit two clutch three-point shots down the stretch and was 4-4 on treys for the game. He came into the game averaging six points per game. Aaron Ellis, who came into the game averaging 4.4 points per game, was also 4-4 from the field, all two-point field goals. Wichita State also got 12 points from J.T. Durley.

Alabama would score only 23 second half points on 7-28 field goal shooting. That's 25 per cent. The Tide shot the same number of first half field goals, 28, and made half of them, 14. Bama missed its last 12 three-point shots and finished 2-14 on three-pointers.

Alabama finished the season with a 25-12 record, The Shockers are 29-8.

Prior to going to New York, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant got the good news that JaMychal Green intends to return for his senior season. At the rate Green has been going, that will be more like for half a season. Green, who had averaged just 23 minutes a game in the last three games, had two unnecessary fouls, third and fourth, in the first 10 minutes of the second half and had only 25 minutes playing time in the championship game.

That hurt, but it wasn't the only negative for Bama. Chris Hines plays hard, but he was 0-8 from the field, including missing a slam dunk to put a punctuation mark on the Tide's second half shooting slump.

Tony Mitchell led Bama statistically with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Green had 12 points and Trevor Releford and Charvez Davis 10 each.

Alabama had been zone almost the entire game in a semifinal win over Colorado, but the Crimson Tide was in its usual man-to-man defense against Wichita State until opening in zone in the second half. That helped for awhile, but eventually Bama's poor offense was too much for the defense to overcome.

After trailing by 37-34 at halftime, Alabama was strong out of the gate in the second half and took the lead at 41-40. But after it was 43-43, it was all Wichita State.

While Alabama was only 2-14 on treys, Wichita State made 7-15. Wichita State was 50 per cent from the field (23-46), Bama only 21-56 (38 per cent). The Tide hit 13-15 free throws and the Shockers 13-17.

In addition to three-point shooting, Wichita State had a big advantage in rebounds (35-27) and bench points (27-7). Otherwise, Alabama did the things that had helped Bama reach the championship game. Bama forced 19 turnovrs and scored 17 points off those turnovers, while the Tide was guilty of only 12 turnovers, resulting in 10 points for the Shockers. Bama won the battle in the paint, 28-20, and had more second chance points, 12-8.

The Shockers were led by Hatch and J. T. Durley with 12 points each.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "Congratulations to Wichita State, I thought they played outstanding today. We give them credit, but at the same time it takes nothing away from our young men and what we accomplished over the course of the season. I'm extremely proud of the effort our guys gave us."

Although Alabama trailed by 37-34 at halftime, the deficit was not as great as the portent. Bama was not playing well. Twice the Tide stole the ball on the press, and both times Bama got no points on what should have been easy layups. At the end of the half, Alabama had the opportunity for a final shot and had a shot clock violation, not getting the shot away. And, of course, the defensive-minded Tide had not expected to give up 37 points in a half.

Alabama had a nice early run to take a five-point lead at 13-8 (and matched at 17-12), but the Tide gave up a four-point trip. Tony Mitchell had a turnover, then was called for an intentional foul. Wichita State made both free throws, then scored on the possession awarded by the intentional foul to go up by 18-17.

Bama had its last first half lead at 23-22 on a nice Charvez Davis shot on an inbounds play. Wichita State took the lead for good when JaMychal Green committed a foul on a made shot, giving the Shockers a three-point play and 28-25 lead. That was the start of an eight-point Wichita State run that put Bama behind at 25-33.

Bama got within a point at 35-34 on a short Treveor Releford shot, but Green's second foul gave the Shockers two more free throw attempts and they stayed perfect, 9-9 in the first half, to make it 37-34 with Alabama unable to get off a final shot.

NOTES: Alabama had its regular starting lineup of point guard Trevor Releford, wings Charvez Davis and Tony Mitchell, high post Chris Hines, and low post JaMychal Green.

Green and Releford were selected to the NIT All-Tournament Team. Garrett Stutz and Hatch were Wichita State representatives.

Senario Hillman had one steal and finished his career with an Alabama record 176.

In addition to Hines, Davis, and Hillman, Bama had a walk-on senior, Justin Luquire, who made the final basket of his final game. Grant said, ""I'm proud of our seniors. You want to play for a championship and end this thing the right way for our seniors. I'm proud of the effort those guys gave us. For our younger guys I think this is a great building block and learning experience as we continue to build our program with the aspirations to play for a championship."

Alabama is now 21-14 al-time in NIT games and 8-9 in NIT games at Madison Square Garden. Bama is now 13-13 in all games (including NIT contests) in the famed arena.

The game was Bama's fourth all-time against Wichita State. Both teams have two wins.

The loss was only the sixth for Alabama since January 1. At one point in December the Tide was 5-6 and won 20 of its next 26 games.

No opponent in Bama's five NIT games reached the 70-point mark against the Tide defense.

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