Tide Holds Off Mocs

With its back against the wall, the Alabama basketball team rose up in the final two minutes to eke out a 76-72 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night. Bama, which led by as many as 12 points in the first half and by 10 points with just over 10 minutes to play, didn't allow the Mocs a point in the final 2:08.

The victory improved Alabama's record to 5-2 on the year. Chattanooga fell to 5-3. The game was Bama's last before Christmas in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will be in Las Vegas Saturday to take on Oregon in the Las Vegas Showdown. The game will be telecast at 9 p.m. CST on ESPN2. Bama returns to Tiuscaloosa Saturday, December 27, against Mercer.

In the first half Alabama had a 36-25 lead with 2:19 to play, but Chattanooga scored the final eight points of the period to cut Bama's lead to only three points at 36-33. However, Alabama had never trailed in the game. In the second half Alabama pushed out to a 60-50 lead with 10:17 to play, but the Mocs then reeled off five straight baskets (including two three-pointers), interrupted only by a pair of Alabama free throws, to tie the game at 62-62. Moments later the visitors had a four-point lead at 66-62, a stretch of less than four minutes in which Chattanooga outscored Alabama 16-2.

A three-pointer by Earnest Shelton and a free throw by Shelton a moment later tied the game, and no more than two points separated the two teams the rest of the way until Kennedy Winston slammed down a putback basket to give the Tide a 75-72 lead with 24 seconds to play. The Mocs then turned the ball over and Winston made a final free throw for the four-point margin of victory.

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I was proud of our guys. I thought they played very, very hard. We guarded them when we needed to. They did beat us in transition a few times. They really got the ball down the floor. We needed to execute our offense and we did. We got some shutouts when we had to and got some big plays. We end up getting out of here with the win and we feel good about it."

Winston did not have a particularly good night shooting, from the field (5-11) or the free throw line (8-12), but did hit clutch shots down the stretch. He hit a three-pointer with 4:15 to play to erase a two-point Chattanooga lead, made two free throws with 1:11 to play to make it 73-72 Bama and then got the critical tip-in and nail-in-the-coffin free throw with six seconds remaining.

Shelton fouled out with 1:45 to play after having scored 19 points. Shelton hit only three of 11 three-point tries. Bama also got double figures scoring from Emmett Thomas with 13 points off the bench (11 in the first half) and from Chuck Davis with 12 points.

Antoine Pettway scored only one field goal, but dished out a career-high nine assists.

Although Alabama had a very poor free throw shooting night, hitting 14 of 25 for 56 per cent, the Tide's margin of victory came on foul shots. Both teams hit 28 field goals, including six three-pointers, for 62 points from the field. Chattanooga made 10 foul shots in its 12 opportunities. Alabama hit 49 per cent from the field (28-57) and 28.6 per cent of its three-point shots (6-21), while the Mocs were good on 489.3 per cent from the field (28-58) and 35.3 per cent of three-point shots (6-17). The visitors had a one rebound margin, 33-32.

High scorer in the game was Ashley Champion, who had 22 to lead five Mocs in double figures., Oddly, 10 Chattanooga players saw action with five in double figures and five held scoreless.

Although Chattanooga was at a height disadvantage, the Mocs kept pushing the ball inside and actually ended up with a slight advantage in points in the paint, 36-34. Bama scored 19 points off the Mocs' 18 turnovers, while the visitors got 15 points off Alabama's 13 turnovers.

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