Free Throws Kill Tide Upset Chance

Coleman Coliseum can be an exciting basketball venue. The recipie is to put a quality opponent on the floor and have Alabama give great effort. It doesn't hurt to have the Tide's best player back in the lineup. But for all that, the Crimson Tide came up just short against the nation's ninth-ranked team.

Alabama was a good host, giving up way too many free throws, and Wichita State took advantage of them and earned a 72-67 win over the Crimson Tide.

The Shockers knocked down 25 of 27 free throws (compared to 14-19 for Bama) to get the win. Alabama outscored Wichita State 53-47 from the field.

Alabama completes its three-game homestand Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts powerful Xavier at 6 p.m. Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.

Trevor Releford returned to the lineup after missing a game with a hip injury. The senior guard led Alabama with 23 points and added six assists for the Tide. Rodney Cooper was the only other Tider in double figures with 14.

Cleanthony Early scored 26 for Wichita State. Early was 7-11 from the field and 11-11 on free throws. Fred Vanfleet and Tekele Cotton had 11 each for the Shockers.

Shooting was about even. Bama made 23-53 from the field for 43.4 per cent and Wichita State 22-50 for 44 per cent. On treys, Bama was 7-20, 35 per cent, and the Shockers 3-12, 25 per cent. Wichita State was 25-27 on free throws, 92.6 per cent, and Alabama 14-19, 73.7 per cent.

Wichita State had a huge advantage in rebounding, 38-26.

The Shockers outscored Alabama 36-28 in the paint and 11-4 on second chance points. Wichita State also had a 12-2 advantage on fast break points. Alabama forced 12 turnovers and scored 11 point off them. The Tide's nine turnovers resulted in seven points for the Shockers.

Wichita State improved to 11-0, while the Tide fell to 5-6.

Alabama fell behind by 10 points in the first half as Wichita State took advantage of Bama turnovers and attacked the paint. Wichita State had 10 fast break points, while the Tide had zero.

But Alabama finally tied the game at 26-26 on a nice drive and lay-up by Retin Obasohan with 3:33 to play in the opening stanza. Wichita State reclaimed the lead on a free throw a minute later and got it out to a three-point lead at 29-26 on a putback. Trevor Releford's three-pointer tied the game at 29-29 inside a minute and a half, but the Shockers were back at the free throw line and took the lead at 31-29 with just over a minute to play.

Alabama had its first lead of the game when Rodney Cooper nailed a three-pointer inside a minute, but Wichita State was back on the foul line again seconds later to reclaim the lead with two free throws.

A missed three-pointer by Releford gave the Shockers a chance to pad the lead, but a desperation shot drew nothing but air. It was 33-32 at intermission.

The difference in the first half was the visitors getting to the free throw line more than the home team. Wichita State was 12-13 on free throws, Bama 8-9. Both teams had 10 field goals with the Tide hitting 4-10 on three-pointers, while the Shockers were 1-3 on treys.

The second half was much more back-and-forth, although Alabama could never grab a lead of more than one possesion. Twice the Tide had the ball and the lead, but couldn't convert.

After falling behind by five points at 47-42, Bama fought back to a couple of leads, the last at 56-53 on a slam dunk by Nick Jacobs with just under six minutes to play.

Trailing by one at 59-60 with three minutes to play, Releford knocked the ball away from a Wichita State player and got the ball to Retin Obasohan, but Obasohan's layup try missed and the Shockers took it quickly downcourt for a slam by Early and a 62-59 lead.

Alabama got back within one point a couple of times in the last three minutes on a nice long assist to Cooper for a layup to make it 61-62 and a Cooper trey a few minutes later for 64-65.

Alabama went to a zone late. Wichita State got a driving layup against it, but Releford made two free throws and the Tide was down just 66-67.

The killer came when Wichita State got two offensive rebounds, Darius Carter putting the second one back with 40 seconds to play tomake it 69-66. Obasohan's attempt at a tying three-pointer hit the rim and went over the backbooard. A few fouls led to the final score.

TIDE NOTES: With Trevor Releford back after missing a game with a hip injury, the Tide's starting lineup included Releford, Levi Randolph, Retin Obasohan, Nick Jacobs, and Jimmie Taylor.

Alabama and Wichita State have played six games and the series is even at 3-3.

The loss was the first this year for Alabama in Coleman Coliseum.

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