Alabama Opens NIT With 62-43 Win

Alabama broke out of a lethargic end to the first half with a 22-point second half run and went on to a 62-43 victory over Northeastern in the first round of the NIT at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa Tuesday night.

Alabama will host a second round game, expected to be on Thursday (but not yet official), against the winner of the Stanford-Stephen F. Austin game, being played at Stanford late Tuesday night.

With the win the Crimson Tide improved to 22-12. Northeastern's season ended at 20-13.

Levi Randolph had the key baskets as Alabama pulled away in the second half and finished as Bama's leading scorer with 13 points. Trevor Lacey was the only other Tider in double figures with 11.

Northeastern was led by Jonathan Lee, who didn't have a point until the final minute of the first half. He finished with 13 points. Reggie Spencer had 10 points for the Huskies.

Alabama held the Huskies to 15-45 field goal shooting (33.3 per cent) and 5-16 on treys. The Tide was good on 25-55 from the field (45.5 per cent), although only 4-19 (21.1 per cent) on treys. Both teams made 8 free throws.

Alabama had a 37-27 advantage in rebounding with Moussa Gueye, Nick Jacobs, and Devonta Pollard getting six each. Bama out-scored the Huskies by 36-14 in the paint, 22-12 on points off turnovers, and 15-2 on second chance points. Bama had 12 turnovers, the Huskies 15.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said he had been concerned with the short turn-around and playing against a conference champion. He pointed out the Huskies had shown in the past they could overcome big deficits, which Northeastern did in the first half.

"I thought in the second half we turned it on," Grant said. "We played aggressively."

Alabama had only a 28-23 lead at halftime, and when Jonathan Lee hit two baskets to start the second half – his third in a row since he had also hit a three-pointer at the end of the first half – the lead was down to a point, at 28-27.

Levi Randolph had the big scores to jump start Bama in the second half. He had a leaner in the middle, and then followed it with back-to-back baseline drives for dunks and a 41-27 lead.

After the Huskies had pulled to within a point of Bama to start the half, Alabama held Northeastern scoreless for nine minutes, enabling Alabama to take a 50-27 lead into the final nine minutes and coast home.

Although Alabama had a five-point lead at intermission, it was a disheartening performance. Bama started out quickly, blocker or altering Northeastern shots on offense or stealing the ball from the Huskies before they could set up, and getting good shots.

The Tide built a 17-point lead at 24-7. In the first three and-a-half minutes, Trevor Releford had seven quick points, two of them coming after he made steals. (Releford would score just two more points in the game.) With just over five minutes gone, the Bama had built a 10-point lead at 13-3.

But after getting up by 17, Alabama had one of those all-too-familiar scoring droughts, going from the 8:16 mark to the 2:47 mark – just under five and a half minutes – without a point.

Northeastern cut the lead to 24-15 before Rodney Cooper got a basket on a nice assist from Releford.

Even with under two minutes to play, Alabama had a 10-point lead at 28-18. But Bama gave up two free throws and a three-point field goal by Jonathan Lee – his only basket of the first half – and the Huskies had cut the margin to only five points at intermission, 28-23.

Moussa Gueye played 17 minutes for the Tide in the first half. That was in part because his back-up, Nick Jacobs, came in and got two quick – and questionable – fouls in one minutes. Fortunately, Gueye was able to play without fouls. He got his first and only foul of the first half with 1:03 to play before intermission.

TIDE NOTES: The unquestioned crowd-pleasing play of the game came late in the second half when Trevor Lacey drove the lane and then passed to 6-foot guard Retin Obasohan for the alley-oop slam dunk. It gave Bama a 56-26 lead with 5:10 to play.

Alabama had its usual starting lineup of junior center Moussa Gueye surrounded by guards, junior Trevor Releford and sophomors Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper.

Northeastern had to play without its leading scorer, senior guard Joel Smith (16.1 points per game). He was injured in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.

In another NIT game involving the SEC, Kentucky was upset by Robert Morris, 59-57, Tuesday night.

Northeastern's Reggie Spencer, a sophomore forward from Tuscaloosa (Hillcrest High School), scored 10 points and had five rebounds in his homecoming appearance.

With 1:14 to play, Alabama was able to clear the bench. Playing the final minute were Dakota Slaughter, Isiah Wilson, Julian Goode, and Keon Blackledge, along with Obasohan.

Alabama has held 22 of its 34 opponents this year to fewer than 60 points.

Alabama is now 2-0 all-time against Northeastern.

Alabama now has 22 all-time victories in NIT play, the most of any SEC team. This is Bama's 12th appearance in the tournament, one behind Tennessee.

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