Hankerson plays role in Bama win

On a night when there was no guarantee he would even play, sophomore Charles Hankerson may have been the difference in a home win or a costly RPI loss by the Alabama basketball team. The Rebels came in with an RPI of 40 to the Tide's 36, and Saturday's contest was the type those on the NCAA Selection committee look hard at. In short, Bama needed very badly to defend its home court.



Apparently, Charles Hankerson and his Alabama teammates got that memo. Hankerson came off the bench to score 10 points, garner a steal, grab a board and dish out one assist in his team's double-overtime, 69-67 win over Ole Miss Saturday night.

His scoring came at a time when the rest of his team was in a shooting slump. Not so for Hankerson, who made four of his seven field goal attempts, including one-of-three behind the 3-point line, and hit his only free throw attempt to cap an old-fashioned 3-point play.

The 10 points were the most Hankerson has notched in an SEC game in his career. He had a career-high 16 points in a home win over Alabama A&M on Nov. 23.

Hankerson's trey came with 11:17 left in regulation to draw his team to within two, while his three-point play with 38 seconds left in the first stanza kept the Tide within seven on a night when the visitors shot 56 per cent from the floor in the first 20 minutes.

Hankerson was not made available for post-game interviews, but his coach and teammates had plenty to say about his contributions to the must-win.

Said Tide Coach Anthony Grant, "I thought ‘Hank' was big. Charles actually had a little minor knee surgery Monday, and he only had one day of practice this week. Our medical staff did a great job (getting Hankerson ready to play). He played with great confidence. It was evident when he came in, he played with great energy and great passion. Those are things needed by our team.

"We got contributions off the bench from several guys. We need that, as a team."

Junior Andrew Steele said, "(Hankerson) stepped up big in a good situation. He made some big shots. The passion he played with energized our team. To get a good win against a team like Ole Miss helps our confidence."

Senior JaMychal Green added, "I think (Hankerson) did a tremendous job coming off the bench. We need him to do that every game."

"Everybody stepped up as a team, even the bench," said sophomore point guard Trevor Releford. "(The reserves) gave us the energy to keep pushing, and to try and get the win."

Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy noticed, as well.

"I thought (Alabama) had guys that stepped up and made timely shots," he said. "(Charles (Hankerson) came in and hit two big ones."

The other "big one" Kennedy spoke of was a two-point jumper to just beat the shot clock Hankerson canned just before his trey. That shot came at the 11:44 mark to draw Bama within five points as the Tide continued chipping at the Rebels' lead.

With Grant playing 11 men for eight minutes or more, and Kennedy opting to use only seven players, the Tide's bench outscored the Rebs' reserve 34-8. The 34 bench points was a season-high.

Kennedy said depth could have made the difference, and added, "I thought both teams played extremely hard. We feel real bad, because we're the ones taking the ‘L.' It comes down to a play here, and a play there, and Alabama made them."

Alabama (15-7, 4-4 SEC) travels to Auburn Tuesday night for an 8:00 p.m. tip. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Notes: Another member of the Alabama practice team got to dress out for the first time Saturday, wearing No. 13, who was freshman Dakota Slaughter, a 6-6, 215-pound forward from Fishers, Ind. That number was worn since the Jan. 5 game at Georgia Tech by another practice squad player, 6-7 forward Julian Goode of Atlanta. Goode saw brief action at Tech.

During the first semester, practice squad player Keon Blackledge of Hoover, who is still a member of the practice squad, wore No. 11, but no longer dresses out for games. He made three brief appearances.

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