Tide takes satisfying win

A still-developing Bama team grew up some Wednesday night, withstanding a charge from a talented and veteran Charlotte squad to take a 79-72 win.

Earlier in the season the 49ers had gone into the defending national champion's home gymnasium and come away with a win over Syracuse. But the Tide squad was up to the task.

"I was proud of our players," Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried said afterwards. "We beat a very good basketball team. Charlotte is going to be an NCAA Tournament team. It was a good win for this group."

The victory pushes Bama's season record to 3-2, while Charlotte drops to 3-2.

Alabama played inspired defense early, holding an excellent long-range Charlotte offense to only 20 percent shooting from behind the three-point arc in the first half. "Our defense was very good early in the game," Gottfried said. "We made them work for their shots."

Charlotte Head Coach Bobby Lutz commented. "That was a good job by Alabama. They were very physical on defense. They got up under you and bumped you out of position. They did a great job."

Tide guard Earnest Shelton led all scorers with 22 points. Senior point guard Antoine Pettway concentrated on running the offense for most of the game, but he hit several key shots down the stretch to lead his team to victory. "They have veteran guards, and their young guys in the post played extremely well," Lutz said. "My hat's off to Alabama."

Harassing the 49er shooters successfully, Alabama led by as much as 15 points in the first half before a late Charlotte run narrowed the halftime margin to eight.

"We wanted to pressure them," Shelton said of his team's first-half defense. "We didn't want to let them get off free shots. They're dead-eye shooters, so we tried to make them put the ball on the floor and do what they weren't comfortable with.

"We had a game plan to be aggressive."

Gottfried praised Shelton's performance. "Earnest is one of the smartest players we've got. He's got a high, high basketball IQ. He did a nice job on both ends of the floor."

Charlotte began the second half with another run run that essentially eliminated Bama's cushion, but the Tide didn't fold. "A lot of my coaching friends have called questioning my sanity for scheduling tough teams early in the year," Gottfried said. "But I think that's starting to pay off."

Alabama's lead hovered between three to eight points for most of the second half, before a three-point shot by Brendan Plavich followed by a slam dunk from seven-footer Martin Iti gave Charlotte a two-point lead.

"Even when they got up by two points, I knew if we just got some defensive stops we'd be right back in the lead," Pettway said.

Two three-point shots in a row from Pettway put the Tide up 72-68 with only 29 seconds left. From that point, the game was decided at the free-throw line.

"I knew when that last shot went down that it would be a free-throw contest," Pettway said. "I felt like we had the game under control. Any one of us can go up and make those shots."

Along with Shelton and Pettway, Jermareo Davidson, Kennedy Winston and Chuck Davis also scored in double-figures for the Tide. Plavich and Demon Brown led Charlotte with 17 points each.

Davis and Davidson shared center duty for Alabama. Davis pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked one shot, while also dishing out four assists. Davidson had six boards and two blocks. Forward Curtis Withers led his team with seven rebounds.

The Tide shot 42.1 percent for the game, including 69.6 from the free-throw line. Charlotte matched Bama at 43.6 percent shooting overall, but was significantly better at the charity stripe, sinking 13-of-17 attempts for an 84 percent success rate. Bama had 13 turnovers to Charlotte's 16.

Alabama continues its home stand Saturday night as the Tide plays host to Austin Peay. Tip-off for the contest is set for 4 p.m. The game can be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network.

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