No one knows what Alabama Coach Anthony Grant drew up when he called time out with 11 seconds to play and Bama down by two points, but it looked suspiciously like the many last chance tries the Crimson Tide has had in recent years. Down only 68-66 because of a valiant comeback effort in the second half, the Tide threw the ball into backcourt and never got close to a decent shot. Levi Randolph’s desperation three was off the mark and Bama was a loser.
With 11:35 to play, Alabama was down by 13 points. Five minutes later it was still a 10-point deficit at 62-52. But even getting the bad end of a handful of close officiating calls – one that fouled out Bama’s leading scorer, Ricky Tarrant – the Tide fought back to two points inside a minute when Shannon Hale made a pair of free throws.
Bama got a stop at the end defensive end and was attacking on the offensive end when Grant called timeout to set up the play that failed.
The loss dropped Bama to 12-4 overall and 2-1 in SEC play. South Carolina improved to 10-5 overall and 1-2 in conference games.
Last year, the Tide came down to a last shot by Trevor Releford, a three-point shot that stuck between the rim and backboard and allowed the Gamecocks to escape with a 67-66 win.
Alabama returns home to Coleman Coliseum Saturday hosting top-ranked Kentucky. The game is sold out, but will be televised by ESPN or ESPN2. Tipoff is at 3 p.m. CST.
Alabama’s big problem against the Gamecocks was in rebounding. South Carolina had a 33-23 advantage in rebounds and SC had 13 offensive boards, leading to a 21-6 advangage in second chance points. The Gamcocks also had a 34-24 advantage in points in the paint. Although Bama committed 14 turnovers to South Carolina’s 13, the Tide had a 23-14 advantage in points off turnovers.
Bama had two players in double figures, Tarrant with 15 and Randolph with 13.
Alabama hit 20-41 field goals, 48.8 per cent, and South Carolina 22-53, 41.5 per cent. The Tide was good on 6-17 three-pointers (35.3 per cent), the Gamecocks 3-14 (21.4 per cent). After making only 6-13 first half free throws, Bama finished 20-30, 66.7 per cent, while the Gamecocks were 21-27, 77.8 per cent.
The Tide opened the second half with turnovers on its first three possessions and fell behind by 36-25, never to catch up.
Both teams started the game poorly. Alabama went out to a 9-0 lead in the first five minutes, but South Carolina came back with a 9-0 run to tie the game. Later the Gamecocks had a 10-1 run to take a 24-1 lead. Ricky Tarrant had a length-of-court drive and layup in the final seconds of the first half to cut the Bama deficit to five points, 30-25, at intermission.
Alabama’s all-time record against South Carolina is now 24-15, and it is 5-11 at South Carolina. That record in Columbia includes Bama losing 10 of the last 13 games.
Each of the last 11 games in the series has been decided by 10 or fewer points, including six coming down to the final possession.
Grant is now 5-3 against South Carolina, 1-3 at Brice-Williams Arena in Columbia.
Alabama and the Gamecocks will meet again this season on Feb. 24 in Tuscaloosa.