Alabama Survives Salukis

Antoine Pettway hit a short shot from the middle of the lane with five seconds to play Thursday as the Alabama basketball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament. Pettway's shot put Bama up by 65-64 and the Crimson Tide defense stopped a game-winning effort by Southern Illinois.

Alabama, which traveled 2,062 miles–the longest trip made by any team in the NCAA Tournament–to Key Arena in Seattle, Washington, will meet Stanford in the second round of the tournament at approximately 4:45 p.m. CST Saturday. (In Seattle, the PST gametime is 2:45 p.m.) Stanford is both the number one seed in the Phoenix Regional (winners of this weekend's games advance to the Sweet 16 at regional sites) and the Cardinal is also number one in the nation in the Associated Press poll.

Alabama improved its record to 18-12 and its all-time NCAA record to 17-16 with the win over SIU, the champions of the Missouri Valley Conference.

Although Alabama led most of the game, including having a 34-24 advantage at halftime, the Salukis had taken a 64-63 lead with 13 seconds to play. SIU had gone ahead on a short shot from the lane by Darren Brooks, the MVC Player of the Year. That shot gave Brooks, who was good on all five of his three-point shots, a game-high 25 points.

Bama answered with Pettway taking a pass from Kennedy Winston, driving a few feet into the lane, then putting up the floater that gave the Tide a 65-64 lead. The Salukis had one last chance, but Brooks' shot with Winston guarding him missed the mark as time expired.

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said, "Antoine Pettway is a wonderful, wonderful person and that was a big, big shot for us today. It was huge.."

Pettway had only six points in the game, but they all came in the second half when Bama's big scorers went cold. Earnest Shelton had a team-high 18 points for Bama, but he scored only two points in the final 18-and-a-half minutes, none in the final 7:23. Shelton hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give him 11 points at halftime and he scored the first five points of the second half, then went dry. Kennedy Winston had 14 points, but only two after intermission and none in the final 14-plus minutes.

Chuck Davis had 10 points for Alabama with eight of them coming in the second half, while Emmett Thomas had 12 points, seven in the second half.

After Pettway's shot, the Salukis had to go the length of the court. Bama had only five team fouls and Davis committed a foul on the floor to force SIU to take the ball out of bounds from the side with only 2.8 seconds to play. The Salukis got the ball to their star, Brooks, but he did not have good control as he threw up the potential game-winner. The 16-foot shot bounced away harmlessly as the echo of the final buzzer died.

Alabama played the game without back-up point guard Demetrius Smith, who turned an ankle during practice in Tuscaloosa before Bama went to Seattle. Smith has been termed "doubtful" for Saturday's game. Winston was forced into playing some point guard against the relentless SIU defense, which worked Pettway hard.

SIU was in control early, moving out to an 8-2 lead. But Bama took the lead at 13-12 with 11:10 to play in the first half and extended that lead to 10 points when Shelton hit his buzzer-beater to give Bama a 34-24 margin at intermission. In the second half, the Salukis' first five field goals were three-pointers as SIU pulled back to within four points at 47-43 with 12:40 to play. Bama got it back to nine points and had a seven-point lead 57-50 on two Davis free throws with 8:19 to play.

Southern Illinois took its first lead since early in the game with 1:50 to play, 62-61. After Thomas hit two-of-three free throws to put Bama back on top at 63-62, Brooks hit his short floater with 13 seconds to play, setting up the final dramatic moments for Pettway and Alabama.

Although Alabama shot very poorly from the free thow line, only 10-of-16, 62.5 per cent, those foul shots were the difference in the game. SIU shot free throws well, but shot only five of them, making four. The Salukis out-scored Bama from the field on the strength of three-point shots. Both teams made 24 field goals (Alabama 24-53 for 45.3 per cent, SIU 24-59 for 40.7 per cent), with SIU hitting 12-22 three-pointers, 54.5 per cent, Alabama 7-16, 43.8 per cent.

Alabama out-rebounded SIU, 34-27. Davis had nine rebounds, Winston eight. Bama had 12 turnovers, SIU only eight. Bama had only seven assists, but one–a half-court pass from Evan Brock to Davis for an easy lay-up–was the assist of the game.

Bama played only seven men, starters Pettway, Winston, Shelton, Davis, and Jermareo Davidson, and back-ups Thomas and Brock.


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