Bama Good Enough To Top Gamecocks

Alabama was up and down, but mostly up Saturday in Coleman Coliseum as the Crimson Tide took a 68-58 Southeastern Conference victory over South Carolina.

Alabama had leads of 20 points or more in both the first half and in the second half, but South Carolina stayed in touch at the end of both halves before faltering.

The Crimson Tide improved to 17-8 overall and 9-3 in SEC games, while the Gamecocks fell to 12-12 overall and 2-10 in conference play.

Kentucky lost to Tennessee, 88-58, on Saturday, so Bama is now alone in second place in the SEC. Florida leads the league with an 11-1 record after defeating Auburn by 83-52 at Auburn Saturday.

Alabama continues at home Wednesday hosting Mississippi State at 7 p.m. CST. Bama defeated the Bulldogs in Starkville, 75-43, a month ago.

Trevor Lacey led Alabama in scoring with 17 points and also had four rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Rodney Cooper and back-up center Nick Jacobs had 10 each for the Tide. Levi Randolph led Bama in rebounding with nine.

South Carolina was led by Brenton Williams with 14 points and Bruce Ellington and Lamonas Chatkevicius with 11 each. Lakeem Jackson had nine rebounds for the Gamecocks.

South Carolina had 51 points from the field to Alabama's 50. The Gamecocks hit 23-51 field goals (45.1 per cent) and 5-17 three-pointers (29.4 per cent). Bama was good on 22-47 from the field (45.1 per cent) and 6-19 on threes (31.6 per cent). The Tide had a big advantage at the free throw line, 18-33 (a poor 54.5 per cent), the Gamecocks 7-13 (53.8 per cent).

South Carolina out-rebounded Bama, 34-31, but that was more than off-set by the Gamecocks suffering 20 turnovers, Alabama only 12. Alabama also blocked seven shots (three each by Moussa Gueye and Jacobs(.

South Carolina outscored Alabama by 34-26 in the paint and 12-4 on fast breaks, but the Tide had an advantage of 18-15 in points off turnovers and 13-8 on second chance points.

South Carolina Coach Frank Martin, who had been very critical of his team prior to Saturday's game, said afterwards that in 28 years of coaching he had never said he was encouraged after a loss, but that he was "a little encouraged" by his team's effort against the Tide.

After a hot first half of shooting, particularly by Alabama, the first field goal of the second half came at the 17:01 mark, a nice layup by Lacey on which he was fouled and made the free throw.

At 15:54 the Gamecocks cut the lead to 10 points at 39-29, but back-to-back baskets by Nick Jacobs – a putback and a nice alley-oop from Lacey – and a steal and layup by Trevor Releford gave Bama a little breathing room at 47-31 with 13:43 to play.

At 11:05 Releford gave the Tide a 20-point lead, 53-33, with a pair of free throws.

After South Carolina had missed its first eight three-point shots of the game, making only a lucky bank shot at the buzzer by Bruce Ellington, the Gamecocks weren't shooting treys in the second half. Bama went to a zone about midway through the period, but then Eric Smith drilled a three-pointer, cutting the Tide lead to 15 at 53-38 with under 10 minutes to play. Bama stayed with the zone and the Gamecocks missed their next two three-point attempts. South Carolina ended up 5-17 on treys.

Bama, on the other hand, didn't make a three-pointer in five tries in the second half after hitting six in the first period and finished 6-19.

Although Alabama's 35-24 halftime lead looked good, it was tempered by the Crimson Tide letting a 23-point lead dwindle as the Gamecocks outscored Bama by 12 points in the final five and a half minutes.

The Gamecocks had drawn first blood on a Tide turnover and coast-to-coast layup, but that lead lasted only a few seconds until Levi Randolph hit a pair of free throws. The only lead change of the game came moments later when Rodney Cooper nailed a three-pointer – one of six by Bama in the first half.

The Gamecocks made only one of nine three-point attempts in the first half, that one coming at the buzzer on a bank shot. South Carolina did not reach double figures until reaching double figures and closing the margin to 32-11 with 5:24 to play.

A highlight of the early going for Alabama was Moussa Gueye going under the basket for a nice reverse layup and drawing a foul. He made the free throw for a traditional three-point play.

Good ball movement through the first 15 minutes of the first stanza led to open Bama shots as the Tide was good on 6-14 three-pointers. One reason Alabama didn't have a bigger lead in the first half was missing 6-11 free throws, including the front end of one-and-one opportunities twice.

Less than seven minutes into the game, all five Alabama starters had scored.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama continues with its starting lineup of junior center Moussa Gueye, surrounded by guards junior Trevor Releford and sophomores Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper.

Senior Andrew Steele was held out of the game for precautionary reasons as he is being treated for "ankle discomfort."

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant and South Carolina Coach Frank Martin were high school teammates at Miami Senior in the mid-1980s.

Bama has now held 17 of its 24 opponents this season – and 10 in a row – to fewer than 60 points.

The game was played with only two officials, C.J. Washington and Jim Lindsey. An official assigned to the game missed because of illness in his family.

Bama and South Carolina have played only 37 games against one another. The Tide has a 24-13 advantage, including 12-1 in Tuscaloosa.

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