Alabama built a big lead, primarily on three-point shooting by Riley Norris and excellent Crimson Tide defense, and went on to a 73-50 win over previously undefeated South Carolina. The Gamecocks,15-0 coming into the game, had been ranked 19th in the nation by the Associated Press and 15th in the Coaches Poll by USA Today.
It was the first Southeastern Conference win for Alabama, which improved to 10-5 overall and 1-2 in SEC play. The Gamecocks are now 2-1 in conference play.
Alabama had a 35-22 lead at halftime in Coloeman Coliseum, and opened the second half with 13-0 run.
Led by Norris with 27 points, the Tide built a second half lead of as many as 27 against the Gamecocks.
Norris was good on 9-16 shots, including 8-11 three-point shots. He also had a team-high seven rebounds as Alabama 38-33 on the boards. Justin Coleman, who didn’t start the game, was 4-8 from the field and 5-5 on free throws had 14 points and five rebounds. Michael Carrera led the Gamecocks with 14 points.
Alabama’s defense held South Carolina’s leading scorer, Sindarius Thornwell, to two points. He had averaged 12.6 coming into Wednesday’s game.
Alabama hit 24-51 (47.1 per cent) from the floor and 13-28 (46.4 per cent) on three-point shots while holding South Carolina to 19-53 (35.8 per cent) and 3-18 (16.7 per cent) on treys. On free throws, the Tide was 12-21 (57.1 per cent) and the Gamecocks 9-17 (52.9 per cent).
South Carolina outscored Alabama in the paint, 26-20, but the Tide had the advantage on points off turnovers at 23-8 and 12-6 on second chance points.
Alabama Coach Avery Johnson called it “an incredible win. I’m proud of our guys. We probably had one of our hardest practices on yesterday. Our scout team really put it on our guys yesterday and it was an intense battle for the two hours-plus of practice.
“It carried over. We rebounded, we played defense. Frankly, we kept them off balance.
“Justin Coleman came off the bench and was outstanding. Riley Norris, who we inserted into the starting lineup, was on fire.”
The first-year Tide coach said, “I recognized our team tonight. I didn’t recognize them against Kentucky (a 77-61 loss last week).”
South Carolina Coach Frank Martin said he had warned his team that the Gamecocks would be playing the team that plays the hardest of all the teams they had played.
Alabama returns to action at 5 p.m. CST Saturday at Vanderbilt. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Alabama opened the second half with a three-pointer by Arthur Edwards, a driving layup by Retin Obasohan, two free throws by Shannon Hale and a three-pointer by Hale, before Norris closed out the 13-point run with a long three pointer six minutes into the second half.
South Carolina finally scored at the 11:51 mark, having gone over 11 minutes of playing time since its last field goal with three minutes to play in the first half.
Jimmie Taylor and Obasohan were good on back-to-back two-free throw opportunities to give the Tide a 26-point lead at 51-25 with just over 10 minutes to play.
Norris’s three-pointer with 7:42 got it to a 27-point lead at 56-29, a margin that would be matched by a late three-pointer by walk-on Lawson Schaffer that made it 73-46.
Coleman did an excellent job of handling the ball in the late going as the Tide was primarily using clock down the stretch.
The obvious highlight of the first half was Norris tying his career high on points with 18, including 5-5 on three-point shots, but the Bama defense was also very solid as the Tide held South Carolina to only 22 points on just 30.8 per cent shooting.
Alabama took the lead on its first possession with a Jimmie Taylor dunk and the Gamecocks were never tied or in the lead.
Norris made it 5-0 on his first trey, then hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Alabama a 13-2 lead with just over 13 minutes left in the first half. A minute later Norris drained another and seconds later added a fourth, this one on a fast break started by a fine Taylor blocked shot. Bama had a 15-point lead, 19-4, at the 11:40 mark. Shannon Hale added a three-pointer in the half and Michael Kessens finished off the first period scoring with a tipin at the buzzer as Alabama led 35-22 at intermission.
Bama had hit 13-27 field goals, including 7-15 three-pointers.
Norris had six first half rebounds, three offense, three defense, and a steal.
NOTES: Alabama’s starting lineup was Retin Obasohan, Riley Norris, Michael Kessens, Arthur Edwards, and Jimmie Taylor. Norris was inserted into the lineup in place of Justin Coleman.
Alabama now has three victories over ranked teams this year, having previously defeated then No. 20 Wichita State (64-60) and then No. 17 Notre Dame (74-73).
In the first half there was a surprise introduction of three members of the Alabama football team, just back from winning the national championship – Reggie Ragland, Kenyan Drake, and Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
Norris came into the game having made 10-30 three-point shots this season and with a career high of 18 points.
Alabama will play against South Carolina again this month. The teams meet Jan. 30 at Columbia.
Wednesday night’s win was the first over a ranked opponent in Coleman Coliseum since defeating Kentucky in 2011.
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Alabama got the win with its top two scorers producing below average numbers with Obasohan, who averaged 14.6 points per game coming in, getting 4 points, and Edwards, who was averaging 10.5, scoring 3.