Deja Vu All Over Again In Hoops Win

The defense was daunting and the quarterback was the catalyst everyone else fed off. Sound familiar? It should. In those two respects, what happened Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa's Coleman Coliseum much resembled what went down Monday night in the New Orleans Superdome in the Bama football team's 21-0 blanking of LSU for the national championship.

Alabama's defense in Wednesday's 69-53 basketball win over LSU allowed the Tigers to shoot but 35.8 per cent from the floor and the Tide scored 25 points off 15 LSU turnovers.

"Both halves our defense carried us tonight," said Alabama Coach Anthony Grant. "that was the key for us coming in. We knew we'd have to do a good job defending them and rebounding the basketball. Those two things were good tonight. We understood the challenge and met the challenge. It was a good win.

"We got some opportunities in transition with turnovers. We understood the challenge of going against them. They've got a nice balance of size and quickness, so the emphasis for us was to play both ways."

Said a begrudging and terse Tigers Coach Trent Johnson, "It is what it is. They were better tonight, but we missed open shots and dropped passes when we were open for easy baskets."

"They're very athletic," said Tigers center Justin Hamilton, who was held to 12 points and six boards, both slightly below his averages of 13 points and 7.5 rebounds. Six-foot-eight Tide forward JaMychal Green stuck to the seven-foot Iowa State transfer most of the night. Much of Hamilton's production came late in the game with Green out and the result decided.

Then there was Trevor Releford, who like Bama football's A.J. McCarron, is a sophomore "quarterback," the role the point guard plays in basketball. Releford's line showed 20 points, two assists, two steals, and but one turnovers in 20 minutes. He shot 9-11 from the field and finished but two points shy of his career high.

"I think Trevor's play has been consistent over the last several games," Grant said, "and that's a great word to be able to use with your point guard. It's a product of the great work he's put in in practice on a regular basis and it's paying dividends for him. He went out on the court and carried it over.

Releford said, "I think I was just taking what the defense gave me, and it was good to hit the three. I was playing to my identiy, playing in the paint around the basket. That's what I do.

"Coach (Grant) was preaching all week to make smart plays and get the turnovers. Just go score. Don't try to make the highlight play.

"It's always good to get a win. That gives us confidence."

The teammates of the "quarterback" noticed Releford, just as the football Tide had taken note of quarterback McCarron.

"Trevor played a great game," said Tony Mitchell. "He took what the defense gave him, and he made the plays that needed to be made."

Those factors probably figured in the "Just like Monday" chant that rang out from the Bama student section late in the game, and in the Bronx cheer given LSU when the Tigers crossed the midcourt line for the first time in the game's opening moments.

Grant and Mitchell both mentioned the football game and the good feeling it gave the crowd and team.

Grant said, "We got a chance to watch it. We enjoyd the unbelievable performance -- just a great job by Coach Nick Saban and his staff. Great night, great performance."

The coach said the football win had an effect on the Tide basketball players. "Without question," he answered. "Our guys are friends with the guys on the football team. There were a lot of smiles and a lot of conversation on the morning after the game."

Mitchell agreed. "With the national championship our football team won, our students came out and supported us on the first day of class. It's great to be at Alabama."

Grant added that he took note of the nearly full coliseum on a curch night with a late tip. "Our crowds have been outstanding, and it's great to see," the coach said. "It has such a huge impact on everything we do, like the way we play from a defensive standpoint, and it's always a positive."

One final similarity to Monday came when Alabama took its biggest lead -- 21 points -- at the 6:43 mark. The crowd of 14,425 took note of that, too.

Grant could likely have maintained that margin had he not substituted liberally in the final minutes with the game decided.

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