By Hardest, Tide Holds Those Tigers

Alabama did not blow a 19-point second half lead. By the barest. Freshman Shannon Hale drilled a three-point shot with 45 seconds to play and the Crimson Tide made enough free throws to hold on for an 82-80 win over LSU in Coleman Coliseum Saturday night.

Alabama seemed on its way to a laugher when Trevor Releford scored on a driving layup to give Bama a 19-point lead with 17 minutes to play, but then the Crimson Tide went into the tank. The offense became the turnover express and the zone defense gave up easy baskets. LSU not only caught Bama, the Tigers took a late lead in the game.

The visitors got it to within 10 points for the first time since it had been 18-9 when LSU pulled to 54-45 with just under 12 minutes to play. With 7:40 to play, Rodney Cooper's fourth three-point basket of the second half gave Bama a six-point lead at 64-58. Forty seconds and two Alabama turnovers later, the game was tied at 64-64. Less than a minute and a half later, after another Tide turnover, LSU had a third chance putback and the lead for the first time since the Tigers had led 9-8.

From there is was back-and-forth until Hale drained his three-pointer with 45 seconds to play and give Alabama the lead for good at 79-78.

Cooper blocked the final shot by LSU as time expired.

Alabama improved to 9-10 overall and 3-3 in Southeastern Conference games, while LSU is now 12-6 overall, also 3-3 in SEC games.

Alabama next faces a trip Tide Coach Anthony Grant probably dreads. Bama will be at Auburn at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Tigers are not a very good team, but Alabama will be facing a sold-out crowd on hand to see Alabama present the Foy Sportsmanship Award to Auburn because the Tigers beat the Tide in football.

Alabama returns to Coleman Coliseum next Saturday, hosting Tennessee at 8 p.m. CST.

Alabama was led by Trevor Releford with 21 points, but he had only four points – one field goal and two key free throws with 15 seconds to play – in the second half. Rodney Cooper, who made all four of his three-point shots and also had a key putback down the stretch, had 19 points. Hale had 17 and Levi Randolph 14.

LSU put five men in double figures – Johnny O'Bryant 18, Shavon Coleman 13, Andre Stringer 12, Jordan Mickey 11, and Anthony Hickey 10.

Alabama allowed 57 points in the second half as LSU made 20-34 second half field goals, including 5-8 three-pointers. For the game, LSU made 29-62 from the field (46.8 per cent) and 7-16 on treys (43.8 per cent) and added 15-20 free throws (75 per cent). Alab ama hit 27-52 from the field (51.9 per cent, including 14-23 for 60.9 per cent in the second half. Bama hit 8-16 three pointers. The Tide was just 1-7 from behind the arc in the first half. Alabama was good on 20-26 free throws (76.9 per cent).

Alabama was out-rebounded by 34-29 and the Tigers had 15 second chance points to 10 for the Tide. LSU had 13 offensive rebounds. LSU also out-scored Alabama in the paint, 34-28. Bama had three turnovers in the first half, but 11 in the second half and the Tigers scored 14 points off those 14 turnovers. Alabama scored 17 points off LSU's 13 turnovers.

Things didn't start well for the Crimson Tide as LSU scored the first seven poiints of the game. But Bama more than made up for it. Bama scored six straight points to pull to within one point. After falling behind 9-6, the Tide then ran off 16 consecutive points to take a 22-9 lead. It took Bama only six and a half minutes to go from seven down to the lead.

Releford ignited the Tide. He had a fine drive and layup to give Bama its first lead at 10-9. By halftime he had 17 of Alabama's 36 points as the Tide had forged a 36-23 lead.

Alabama led by as made as 15 at 28-13 when Shannon Hale made a free throw with 6:25 to play.

Nick Jacobs had six first half points, Levi Randolph five, and Jimmie Taylor 2 for 13 total points off the bench.

TIDE NOTES: Retin Obasohan, who missed the Florida game with a hip flexor injury, was again not in the starting lineup against LSU. Obasohan, however, was dressed in uniform. For the Florida game he had been in sweatclothes. Levi Randolph was also not in the starting lineup for Bama for the second consecutive game.

The starting lineup was the same as it had been for Florida with junior Carl Engstrom at center, freshman Shannon Hale at forward, and guards senior Trevor Releford and juniors Rodney Cooper and Algie Key.

The game marked Bama's home game for "Coaches Against Cancer." The promotion includes coaches wearing basketball shoes. Tide Assistant Antoine Pettway, who wore ruby red shoes as an Alabama player, was sporting that trademark, as did Head Coach Anthony Grant and all the assistant coaches.

Going into this game, Alabama had won its eight games by holding the opponent to 65 points or fewer and had lost its 10 games when allowing 65 or more points. LSU scored 57 points in the second half in putting up 80 in a losing effort.

Alabama junior guard Rodney Cooper continued to feast on Tiger meat in his career. He came into the game having played LSU four previous games and averaging 14.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while shooting 43 per cent from the floor (22-51). Saturday night he hit 7-12 from the field (58.3 per cent) and scored 19 points and had six turnovers – not to mention a blocked shot as time expired.

Shannon Hale had a game-high six assists.

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