Defense Keys Tide Win Over Colonials

The good news is that Alabama can win games with its defense. The bad news is that defense may be the only way the Crimson Tide can win, and it wasn't exactly a convincing victory Saturday over Robert Morris. Bama completed its non-conference schedule with a win, but almost no one in the Tide camp can feel comfortable.

Alabama did not get its first lead against Robert Morris, a former junior college from Pittsburgh, until Trevor Releford hit a three-point shot with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game. After that, the Crimson Tide did not lose the lead and went on to a 64-56 win over the Colonials.

Alabama improved its record to 6-7, while Robert Morris fell to 5-10.

Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play Tuesday when the Crimson Tide hosts Vanderbilt. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. CST with television coverage by ESPNU.

Alabama scored 26 points off Robert Morris turnovers as Bama broke from a 23-20 halftime deficit to get the win. Alabama had two steals in the first half and 10 in the second half. The Colonials had six turnovers in the first half, 13 in the second half.

Bama hit 24-44 field goals for 54.5 per cent, while RMU was good on 21-44 for 47.7 per cent. The Tide made 5-14 three-pointers (35.7 per cent), the Colonials 6-14 (42.9 per cent). Alabama was good on 11-21 free throws (52.4 per cent) and Robert Morris made 8-13 (61.5 per cent). Alabama had 29 rebounds, Robert Morris 23.

Trevor Releford led the Tide in scoring with 18 points. Retin Obasohan had 12 off the bench. Robert Morris was led by Karvel Anderson with 16 points and Lucky Jones with 14 points, seven rebounds.

Releford had six steals in the game. Carl Engstrom had a nice game with eight points on 3-3 shooting from the field, five rebounds (including three offensive boards), two blocked shots, and two assists. Obasohan, the shortest man on the floor much of the time, had seven rebounds to lead Alabama and tie for the game lead.

Alabama outscored the Colonials by 38-20 in the paint and 26-17 off turnovers. The Tide also had a 12-4 advantage in fast break points.

The Tide trailed by nine points in the first half. Alabama's biggest lead was 10 points at 61-51 in the final minute.

This year's Alabama team has been noted for its poor finishes. Against the Robert Morris zone defense, the Crimson Tide had a horrific beginning. Bama trailed by 23-20 at halftime, which was the closest Alabama had been to the lead since the Colonials opened the game scoring the first nine points.

Alabama did not get onto the board until Rodney Cooper hit a free throw at the 15:46 mark. Trevor Releford hit Bama's first field goal five minutes into the game. With just over seven minutes to play, Levi Randolph hit the first three-pointer for the Tide. That put Bama into double figures, trailing 15-10.

Releford hit a three-pointer in the final half minute to pull Alabama to within three at 23-20.

Defense got the Tide into the lead in the second half. Obasohan had a steal that led to a three-point shot by Releford with just under 13 and a half minutes to play that put Bama in the lead for good at 31-30. Releford then had back-to-back steals and layups to make it 35-30 Alabama.

Robert Morris pulled to within two points at 46-44, but the Tide took it back out with six point run, including two baskets by Rodney Cooper.

Although Alabama free throw shooting was poor, the Tide made enough down the stretch to hold off the Colonials.

TIDE NOTES: Alabama's starting lineup was Trevor Releford, Levi Randolph, and Rodney Cooper at guards, and two freshmen inside, forward Shannon Hale and center Jimmie Taylor.

Nick Jacobs was not in the first wave of substitutes. He was on a stationary bicycle indicating some injury problem. Jacobs came into the game six minutes into the first half.

Retin Obasohan and Carl Engstrom, who had been the first subs in the first half, started in place of Hale and Taylor in the second half.

Robert Morris has played one other SEC team this year. Kentucky, ranked number one at the time, beat the Colonials by 87-49 on Nov. 17. Robert Morris came into the game with a 5-9 record. The Colonials also played sixth-ranked Oklahoma State, losing 92-66, last Monday.

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