Alabama's win broke a five-game losing streak. The Tide improved to 12-10 overall and 4-6 in Southeastern Conference games. Bama, which has a 68-61 all-time lead over the Vols, has now won four in a row over Tennessee.
Alabama continues in Tuscaloosa's Coleman Coliseum hosting Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Prior to Saturday, Alabama Head Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried had characterized the Tide as having a "seven-game season" remaining. With six games now left in regular season and SEC play, the Tide must win four to avoid a losing record. Frequently, a losing conference record has been a roadblock to NCAA Tournament participation.
Two of the Tide's final six games are against national power Mississippi State (at Starkville next Saturday and in Tuscaloosa for the final regular season game on March 6). In addition to the Vanderbilt game, Bama will host Mississippi on February 28. Alabama lost to the Rebels in Oxford, 71-60. The Tide has road games against two teams Bama defeated in Tuscaloosa, Auburn (69-46) on February 24 and Arkansas (81-65) on March 3.
Alabama trailed 36-32 at halftime, in part because Bama was out-rebounded by Tennessee and in part because of horrible free throw shooting by the Tide. At intermission the Vols has 21 rebounds and six second chance points, while Alabama had 15 offensive rebounds and no second chance points. And the Vols had connected on 13 of 17 free throws, while Alabama had made only 4 of 10.
Alabama got off to a quick start in the second half with Chuck Davis scoring eight points in the first five minutes. Despite foul problems, Davis would score 20 points and pull down nine rebounds in only 27 minutes of play. He also blocked three shots.
Alabama pressed on made field goals and free throws through most of the second half and would build as much as a 17-point lead in the final moments.
Four minutes into the second half, Kennedy Winston connected on a three-point shot – his first field goal of the game – that tied the score at 45-45. Just over a minute later Winston drove the lane, made a left-handed field goal, and was fouled and made the free throw for a 48-47 Crimson Tide lead. Alabama would never relinquish that lead.
Winston had a big game against Tennessee in Knoxville last year, leading the Crimson Tide to victory by scoring 15 points, pulling down eight rebounds, and dishing out six assists. At the half on Saturday Winston had a paltry two points on two-of-four free throw shooting. He had missed his only three field goal attempts. He finished with 16 points and six rebounds. He hit only three field goals, but made 8 of 13 free throws.
Earnest Shelton had the second best scoring day of his Alabama career as he led all scorers with 27 points. Shelton, a native of Memphis, connected on 8 of 12 field goals, including 5 of 9 thjree-pointers, and added 6 of 7 free throws.
"It is a big game for me personally," Shelton said. "You get some bragging rights when you get to go home in the summertime. It is one of those games that I circle on my calendar and look forward to playing."
Antoine Pettway was in early foul trouble and played only 28 minutes and scored only one point. But Pettway played a big role in the win as he was a key in Bama's defense (getting three steals) and had five assists and five rebounds.
"I thought that in the second half our zone helped us," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried. "Our full-court press probably helped us some. I thought that it got the game and the tempo going like we wanted it to." Earnest Shelton led Alabama in scoring with 27 points. He was 8 for 12 in field goals, 5 for 9 in three point attempts and 6 for 7 in free throws. Also reaching double digits for the Tide were Chuck Davis with 20 points and Kennedy Winston with 16.
Alabama corrected its first half deficiencies in a big way. After trailing by six rebounds in the first half, the Tide finished with a 40-34 margin (a 25-13 advantage after intermission). Alabama finished making 23 of 35 free throws (19-25 in the second half), while the Vols were good on only 4 of 9 in the second period and finished with only 17-26. Both teams shot just over 65 per cent on foul shots.
Alabama outscored the Vols by seven points from the field. Alabama made 26 of 54 field goals (48.1 per cent), including 8 of 17 three-pointers (47.1 per cent). Tennessee made 23 of 57 field goal attempts (40.4 per cent), including 7 of 18 three-point efforts (38.9 per cent).
Tennessee had a slight advantage on points in the paint, 28-26, and the Vols scored eight fast break points, Alabama none. Bama had an 11-8 advantage in points after turnovers and a 13-12 margin in second chance points.