Now comes the choice that will determine the destiny of the Alabama program. Anthony Grant was dismissed as head coach less than a week ago, and now the man who fired him, Athletics Director Bill Battle, faces the task of finding a replacement. As the tournaments – NIT and, more importantly, NCAA wind down, there will be candidates available. But no one knows the direction Battle will take.
The successor will look at videotape of the team he inherits and will see some good. He will also see that Levi Randolph is gone. Randolph, perhaps the most memorable captain in Bama basketball history, gave his all in a losing effort Saturday. It was his Tide record 135th game and he contributed 17 points (two of them coming on a play-of-the-game dunk set up by one of his four steals) and seven rebounds.
The unfortunate team result of Randolph’s final appearance is that Bama is left with a disappointing 19-15 record. Miami, the second seed in the Richmond Quadrant to play the winner of Richmond-Arizona State on Sunday.
A big problem for Alabama Saturday was, shall we say, Bama not adjusting to the way the came was called. Jimmie Taylor had no shots that were not physically contested and was 0-5 from the field. He did have eight rebounds, but shooting only 2-6 from the free throw line was not an offensive threat. Retin Obasohan had 11 first half points, but also had three first half fouls and no points in the second half, fouling out on a touch and playing only 25 minutes.
In a seven-point game, Miami had eight more made free throws than Alabama, the Tide hitting 12-19, the Hurricanes 20-27.
Bama was 24-61 (39.3 per cent) from the field and 6-27 (22.2 per cent) on three-point tries. The Canes were 22-54 (40.7 per cent) from the field and 9-23 (39.1 per cent) on treys. Miami had a 44-33 advantage in rebounding.
Alabama had a 28-14 advantage in points in the paint. Although the Tide had only six turnovers, Miami 11, the Hurricanes had an 11-8 advantage in points off turnovers. Miami had a slim 17-15 edge in second chance points and 16-5 on fast break points. The Miami bench scored 21 points, the Tide bench (which included out-for-the-year injured players Ricky Tarrant and Shannon Hale) just 10.
Rodney Cooper led the Tide with 20 points. In addition to Randolph and Obasohan, Michael Kessens had those 10 points off the bench on 5-6 field goal shooting.
Alabama took a 34-30 lead into halftime, and extended that lead early in the second half before the Hurricanes turned things around. Down 47-45 with just over 11 minutes left in the game, Miami went on a 17-2 run over the next six minutes that broke the game open.
Alabama is now 11-5 over its last 16 NIT games and Bama is now 24-16 all-time in its 13th NIT appearance. This was the third Tide-Miami meeting and the first win for the Hurricanes.
John Brannen, who had served as Grant’s top assistant, coached Bama in its 79-58 romp over Illinois in the first round of the NIT and against Miami.