Alabama will meet Florida at approximately 9:45 p.m. EST (8:45 p.m. CST) Friday in the second round. The Gators, the second place team in the SEC Eastern Division, had a bye in the first round. Earlier this year the Gators defeated Bama, 88-78, in Tuscaloosa when the Crimson Tide was in the midst of a five-game losing streak playing without Earnest Shelton. Alabama was able to give most of its starters a lot of rest in the rout of Tennessee.
Alabama has played what many believe to be the nation's most difficult schedule and the Tide's performance this season has put Bama among the top 20 or so teams in the nation in performance index. The win over Tennessee is believed to have assured Alabama's appearance in the NCAA Tournament. NCAA selections will be announced late Sunday afternoon.
There were no close games on the first day of action in the SEC Tournament, and Alabama was the only team from the Western Division to post a victory. In other games Georgia defeated Auburn, South Carolina defeated Arkansas, and Vanderbilt defeated Mississippi.
Alabama was never headed in drubbing the Vols for the second time this year. Alabama had defeated Tennessee 83-70 in a regular season game in Tuscaloosa on February 14. The game was tied at 2-2 before the Tide took the lead for good. At the half Bama had an 18-point lead at 45-27. Ironically, that was the same margin Alabama had in its last regular season game against Mississippi State, a game Bama lost in overtime.
The Tide didn't squander the lead this night. The Tide's 35-point margin of victory was the greatest ever over Tennessee, easily surpassing the 70-57 win Alabama posted in 1958.
Bama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said, "We're playing very well right now. We're playing good defense, spreading the ball around, and having a lot of guys making shots. The defense was probably the key. When our inside game is good, our outside game is a lot better. We've got good balance right now. All year long against a great schedule we have played hard every night. I think our guys are excited to play Florida. They are a very good team, but our guys are excited about playing them."
Alabama shot 63 per cent from the field in the first half in building its lead. The Tide had only three turnovers in that opening stanza. Although shooting cooled off a bit in the second half, the Tide continued to play great defense and increased its lead throughout the second half.
Kennedy Winston led four Tiders in double figures scoring with 17 points, and Winston also had six rebounds. Emmett Thomas came off the bench to contribute 16 points, Earnest Shelton had 15, and Chuck Davis had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Both teams had 57 field goal attempts, but Bama was far more efficient. The Tide hit 30 of its tries for 52.6 per cent, while Tennessee was good on 18 for 31.6 per cent. Bama was good on 50 per cent of its three-point shots, 7-14, while the Vols hit 6-16, 37.5 per cent. Alabama made 17-27 free throws, 63 per cent, Tennessee 7-11, 64 per cent. Bama had an advantage on the boards, 42-27. The Vols committed 15 turnovers, Alabama 11.