A basketball coaching adage has it that the offense won't be there every night, but a team that plays good defense consistently will always have a chance to win. Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried is no doubt a proponent of that theory.
The victory came against a Georgia team that had previously defeated highly-ranked Georgia Tech in Athens and which in its last outing had upset Kentucky in Lexington. Bama has not been a particularly effective road team historically under Gottfried and did not have a road win this year.
The Tide got this victory despite the absence for most of the game of leading scorer Earnest Shelton. The junior guard, who had averaged 16.2 points per game this year, suffered a knee sprain in the first half. Gottfried said, "I'm a little concerned about Earnest. Hopefully he's okay, but that's not a good thing for us."
Alabama continues on the road this week, going to Mississippi Saturday. Tipoff for that game will be at 5 p.m. CST with regional television coverage by Fox Sports South.
While Antoine Pettway had the game-winning shot (and led Alabama scorers with 11 points), Kennedy Winston had two huge plays in the final minute. Winston hit a short jump shot that tied the game at 42-42 with just over 30 seconds to play. On the ensuing Georgia possession, the Bulldogs had three short shots at the basket before Kennedy finally snared the rebound. The sophomore made a heads-up play by calling an immediate timeout with seven seconds to play, giving Alabama time to set up the winning play.
"That was a great, great play for Kennedy to call timeout and give us a chance to win," Gottfried said.
That winning play was pretty simple. The ball was thrown into Pettway, who dribbled to the top of the circle and drilled home the decisive three-pointer with 1.6 seconds to play. Georgia threw the ball in bounds but didn't have a chance at a game-tying shot because the Bulldog catching the in-bounds pass stepped out-of-bounds.
Gottfried said, "Antoine didn't have a particularly good game, but that tells you what kind of young man he is."
Chuck Davis was the only Alabama player in double figures with 10 points. Winston had nine points.
Alabama led most of the first half, but the Bulldogs scored the final five points of the period and led by 22-18 at intermission. Alabama finally tied the game at 30-30 on a Pettway three-pointer with 13:20 to play. Moments later Demetrius Smith scored a layup on a fast break for a 32-20 Bama lead. But Georgia re-took the lead at 35-32 with just over nine minutes to play and Alabama did not lead again until Pettway's winning shot.
While Alabama shooting was not good (36 per cent from the field and 30 per cent on three-point shots), the Tide defense held Georgia to worse shooting (33 per cent from the field and 23 per cent on three-point tries). Bama, which averages only about 12 turnovers per game, had 19. Additionally, the Tide was out-rebounded, 34-27. But Alabama did have 12 steals.
Gottfried said, "We're happy to have it. That was the kind of game where you have nothing go your way. Our offense was absolutely terrible. We turned the ball over. We got in a hurry. We couldn't make shots when we did get good openings.
"But our defense was pretty consistent. We just kept fighting, just kept plugging, and kept our heads in the game."