Anyone in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night would have thought that the most amazing thing they would see would be a woman on a 12-foot high unicycle pitching bowls off her right foot – up to five at a time – and catching them in a bowl balanced on top of her head. That was the halftime entertainment of the Tennessee game against Alabama.
Not even close. The amazing feat was Alabama’s comeback win. Down 15 points in the second half, the Crimson Tide rode the clutch shooting of Shannon Hale, Retin Obasohan, and Arthur Edwards and overall tough play to a 63-57 win over the Vols.
The Tide trailed by 15 points in the second half and fought back to take the lead
Alabama improved to 11-8 on the year and 2-5 in Southeastern Conference games. Tennessee is now 10-10 overall and 3-5 in the league.
Alabama next goes to South Carolina for a 5 p.m. CST game that will be televised on the SEC Network. Earlier this year Bama defeated the Gamecocks, 73-50, in Tuscaloosa.
Bama, which had been 48-33, tied the game on an Obasohan layup with 1:41 to play. Alabama led for only 3:20 in the game, and took the lead with two Hale free throws with just over a minute to play. The Vols tied it at 57, but Edwards nailed a trey with 34.7 seconds to play, Bama got a stop, and an Obasohan layup and foul shot provided the final points in the win.
Alabama Coach Avery Johnson said, “We got off to a very slow start, but I didn’t scream at them at the first timeout. I gave them some love. There is no surrender in our team.
“We changed up our defenses. Fortunately, they missed some shots.
“It’s been a rough couple of days. We had a very tough practice yesterday and it carried over. We were very tough mentally.
“We turned it on in the second half. It’s tough in the SEC, a play here, and a play there.”
Hale had 22 points and Obasohan 20. Kevin Punter came into the game as the SEC’s leading scorer at over 25 per game and was the top man for the Vols with 15 points on 5-14 shooting (3-9 on three-pointers). Robert Hubbs III had 13 and Admiral Schofield 10.
Alabama was good on 24-60 field goals (40 per cent) with only 4-21 (19 per cent) on treys. The Vols hit 22-65 from the field (33.8 per cent) and 8-33 on three-point shots (24.2 per cent). Uncharacteristially, Alabama made 11-13 free throws (84.6 per cent), while the Vols were 5-5.
Riley Norris had 13 rebounds as the Tide had a 42-38 advantage in rebounding.
Alabama outscored Tennessee 34-18 in the paint and 16-4 in fast break points. The Vols had a 25-22 advantage in points off turnovers (Tennessee turned it over 17 times, Bama 16) and 11-8 on second chance points.
Down a point at intermission, Alabama started the second half with a steal by Obasohan, dish to Norris for thelayup and a 26-25 lead, but the Vols answered with an uncontested dunk to lead 27-26. Norris had an offensive rebound and putback and the Tide was back on top, 28-27. Bama had scored four points and the Vols two in the first minute of play.
But two straight steals led to Tennessee baskets, followed by a trey that started a three-point barrage that put the Vols up 40-30 less than four minutes into the second half and up to 15 at 48-33 with just under six minutes gone.
Shannon Hale made three free throws, a three-pointer, and a couple of twos to pull Bama back to within five points, 48-43, with just over nine minutes to play. Obasohan got back-to-back fast break layups, and Bama was back tlo within a point with just under eight minutes to play at 48-47.
After scoring 13 consecutive points, Alabama had two possessions with a chance to take the lead, but a second chance putback and free throw gave the Vols breathing room at 51-47 and then to 55-47 before an Obasohan jumper stopped the bleeding with just under four minutes to play. At 55-49, Alabama, as Coach Avery Johnson had said a day earlier, had little margin for error.
There was very little Alabama error.
Hale hit two free throws to pull it to within 55-51 with 2:47 to play. An Obasohan teardrop from the lane cut it to 55-53 and Obasohan drove the lane to tie it at 55-55 with 1:41 to play.
With 1:23 to go Hale was fouled grabbing a rebound and went to the line for a one-and-one. When he hit the first one, Bama was in the lead, and he also made the second, and the Tide led 57-55. Tennessee tied it with a tip-in with 1:02 to play.
With 34.7 seconds to play, Arthur Edwards was good on a three-point shot. Tennessee tried a tying trey. It missed and the rebound was snatched by Obasohan who went the distance and scored with 17.4 seconds to play. He was fouled, made it, 63-57. And when the Vols missed, Alabama had amazingly won.
The only thing that would have made it more improbable would have been if the Tide was on unicycles and balancing bowls on their heads.
Both teams were slow starting the game, the first field goal not coming until nearly three minutes had elapsed. The Vols scored 12 straight points to take a 16-4 lead midway through the half. Bama scored six straight to cut it to six and with just over four minutes to play the Tide had pulled to within four at 21-17.
An Obasohan trey with just over two minutes had Bama to within three at 25-22. Obasohan scored at the buzzer and Alabama had fought back to trail by only a point, 25-24, at intermission.
It had been a sloppy first half, Tennessee with 10 turnovers, Bama with 11. The Vols had shot 34.5 per cent from the field, the Tide 35.7.
TIDE NOTES: Alabama’s starting lineup was Retin Obasohan, Arthur Edwards, Riley Norris, Arthur Edwards, and Jimmie Taylor.
Taylor played only 11 minutes in the game and finished with 1 points and 1 rebound. His place for much of the game was taken by freshman Donta Hall, who had four rebounds, two points, and two blocked shots in the 14 minutes he played before fouling out.
Hale’s 20 points (14 in the second half) matched his season high (he also had 20 in an upset win over Wichita State).
Bama’s win ended a three-game losing streak for the Tide.
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Alabama now leads the series against Tennessee by 78-67.