NASHVILLE, Tenn.--In two regular season meetings between the Alabama and Tennessee basketball teams, the Vols combined to out-rebound the Crimson Tide by 30. Though UT won the battle of the backboards in Friday's 58-48 Alabama win in round one of the SEC Tournament, it was by two: 37-35.
"One of the things we talked about on the scouting report was, when the shot went up, to find (Vols center Jarnell Stokes) and get a body on him so he didn't get the rebound," said Alabama sophomore guard Levis Randolph, who grabbed five boards to go with a team-high 15 points. "We tried to limit their second-chance points. When the ball went up, we wanted to block out and get the rebound."
Tennessee got 13 second-chance points to Bama's 11. Stokes, a 6-8 270-pound sophomore, has long been a thorn in the Tide's side. He finished the loss 4-for-9 from the field, 4-7 at the foul line, scored 12 points and grabbed 13 boards. Stokes was hounded all night long by Tide post men Moussa Gueye (two points, four boards, one block) and Nick Jacobs, who grabbed a career-high 12 boards to go with six points.
"Nick Jacobs came in and got some great rebounds. We've talked all year about how much better a team we are when Nick (Jacob s) steps up and performs for us. It was great to see him battle today," said (Stokes) is a load in the post. The biggest thing was to make him work for everything he got. The zone (defense) helped with that. It was a matter of stepping up and competing, and both our big guys (Gueye and Jacobs) did that today.
"Today (Tennessee) won the rebounding battle, but it was by significantly less. If you look at their success of late, with Stokes, we felt like it was important to limit his opportunities."
Stokes was quick to tip his hat to the Tide center tandem of Moussa Gueye and Jacobs. Stokes said, "Anytime a team plays a zone, it's hard for a big man to score. I think (Alabama) did a good job of getting out of their press and into their zone. (Jacobs) is a physical guy. They did a good job of double-teaming me and controlling the glass, especially in the first half."
Vols coach Cuounzo Martin said, "I thought Jarnell (Stokes) did a good job around the rim, but they had four or five guys hovering around him. They did a good job sagging on (Stokes), and we didn't go a good job of hitting our open shots." The Vols finished 5-23 (21.7%) on 3-point attempts.
In addition to Jacobs' yeoman effort, redshirt freshman guard Retin Obasohan came off the bench to score nine points, seven in the first half.
"I thought we got great efforts out of everybody that went on the court today," Grant said. "Everybody did a great job, and not necessarily just what shows up on the stat sheet." One thing that did show up on the stat sheet: the Tide bench, backing up what Grant said, outscored the Vols 17-7 in a game Bama never trailed in the second half.
With the win Friday, Grant continued a streak at Alabama of never having lost his team's opening SEC Tourney game.
Now, the Tide must prepare for a noon CT Saturday ABC-TV game against the tournament's top seed, the Florida Gators, who easily handled LSU 80-58. The SEC regular season champion Gators have never lost to their former assistant coach Grant, as Gators coach Billy Donovan sits 5-0 against his former top assistant. The 2-12-13 Gators are 25-6 on the season.