Tide Moves Forward With NIT Victory

Playing a morning game in the central time zone meant that the Stanford basketball team was on real early time, and the Cardinal never seemed to get in sync against an Alabama team in Tuscaloosa Saturday. The Crimson Tide advanced in the National Invitation Tournament with a 66-54 win over Stanford.

Alabama improved its record to 23-12. Stanford's season ends at 19-15.

Alabama will play Maryland, a 62-52 winner over Denver on Thursday, in the quarterfinals. The Tide vs. Terps in Coleman Coliseum will be at 6:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday. The winner of that game advances to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden.

Alabama got a game-high 16 points from Levi Randolph and 10 from Trevor Releford, but three back-up Bama players were critical to success. Retin Obasohan had 14 points (including 8-8 free throw shooting) and six rebounds; Nick Jacobs had 10 points and six rebounds; and although freshman Devonta Pollard had only four points, he also had a game-high eight rebounds, two big second half assists, a blocked shot and a steal in what was probably his best game of the year.

Randle Chasson led Stanford with 11 points and back-up Robbie Lemons had 10. A key for Bama was holding Stanford's leading scorer, Dwight Powell, to only two points in the game.

Alabama's defense was again very good, holding the Cardinal to 31 per cent shooting from the floor, 18-48. Stanford did make 10-29 three-point shots, 34.5 per cent. The Tide hit 20-52 on field goals, 38.5 per cent, and 4-12 on treys, 33.3 per cent. The difference in the game was at the free throw line. Although Stanford made 8-9, 88.9 per cent, the Tide got to the foul line with more frequency and made 22-26, 84.6 per cent.

Alabama had a slight advantage in rebounding, 39-36. Bama dominated in the paint, 28-14, and in points off turnovers, 17-5. The Cardinal had an 11-7 edge in second chance points.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "I thought from start to finish our defense was very good. We knew Stanford's three-point skill, we had to be locked in."

He said Bama's press was effective.

"We had guys step up offensively and defensively," he said.

Stanford Coach Johnny Dawkins (the former Duke star), said, "Alabama is as advertised, a very good defensive team." He said Bama holding Powell to only two points was a key to the Tide's victory.

Alabama had a 32-24 lead to start the second half and Randolph connected on a rainbow three-pointer to open it up to 11. But Stanford fought back to get the game to within four points at 54-50 with five a a half minutes to play, but Jacobs scored on a nice assist from Randolph and Obasohan hit a jumper to put it back out to eight.

When Jacobs got a rebound, was fouled going up, and made two free throws with 2:20, Bama had an 11-point lead at 61-50 and it was just a matter of making free throws down the stretch. Releford made a pair and Randolph made four and that sealed the victory.

Although Stanford drew first blood with an unguarded trey by the Cardinal's Andy Brown, the Tide tied it with an old-fashioned three-point play by Trevor Releford. When Levi Randolph made a free throw moments later, Bama had the first half lead for good.

Randolph's trey at 11:30 made it a six-point Tide advantage, and the Cardinal never got closer than that in the first half.

Alabama took advantage of a press that forced eight Stanford turnovers and resulted in nine Bama points and on scoring in the paint. The Cardinal were mostly content for outside shots. Stanford star Dwight Powell, who picked up two early fouls, had only two points at intermission, those coming on a putback jumper.

Both Releford and Trevor Lacey had nice backcourt steals and coast-to-coast layups to help the Tide pull out to eight-point leads.

Alabama had as much as an 11-point lead, the last time just before half when Devonta Pollard had a putback t make it 32-21. Stanford's Robbie Lemons hit a three-pointer in the final minute to pull the Cardinal to within eight points. Bama was able to work for the last shot, but failed to convert.

Fouls were a problem for both teams with Bama having Moussa Gueye (two offensive fouls in a 20-second span), Nick Jacobs (two in a minute and a half of play), and Lacey two; and Stanford having two called on Brown, Powell, and Birmingham native Gabriel Harris.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama now has a 23-14 record in NIT games in Bama's 12th appearance in the tournament. The 23 victories is the most by any Southeastern Conference team in the NIT.

Stanford was defending NIT champion.

Alabama will be trying to make the NIT final four for the seventh time. The Tide has never won the NIT championship. Bama was runner-up in both 2001 and 2011.

Saturday's game was Alabama's 12 consecutive victory in Coleman Coliseum. Bama is 16-3 at home this season.

Alabama is now 3-0 all-time against Stanford. The two prvious games were in NCAA Tournaments.

In 35 games this year, Alabama has held 23 opponents to under 60 points.

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

Alabama's first inside substitution for Gueye was not the usual, Nick Jacobs, but rather Devonta Pollard. Jacobs has had back issues, Grant said.

Gabriel Harris, the back-up Stanford guard from The Altamont School in Birmingham, came in in the first half and was called for two fouls in one minute of play. Gabriel had a nice little cheering section with shirts announcing their loyalty.

Attendance Saturday was 6,148.

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