Tide Wins A Thriller

In a game delayed a half hour because of faulty lighting in Charlotte Saturday, the lights burned late as it took three overtimes before Alabama got a 102-101 victory over UNC. Kennedy Winston was the offensive star for Bama, which is no surprise, but Winston was also involved in critical defensive plays.

Alabama, ranked 22nd in the nation, is now 6-1. Bama returns to action Tuesday against Alabama State in Montgomery. The Tide will be back in Tuscaloosa's Coleman Coliseum next Saturday as Bama hosts Temple.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "Kennedy Winston was phenomenal. He made some big plays, some big shots." Winston had a career high 33 points on 12-25 field goal shooting and 6-6 free throw shooting, and had a double-double as he had 10 rebounds.

Gottfried was also pleased with the play of his bench. That was particularly important in overtime as starting forward Chuck Davis and starting point guard Ron Steele fouled out in the second overtime and starting center Jermareo Davidson fouled out in the third overtime.

Cold shooting and turnovers got Bama into an early hole. While Alabama was unable to buy a three-point goal in the early going, the 49ers were burying long shots and building an early 15-point lead at 23-8. Although Alabama cut the lead to six points a couple of times late in the first half, in each instance UNC made immediate field goals to pull back out of trouble. At the half, North Carolina-Charlotte had a 41-35 lead.

Gottfried said, "This game will help us. We've got some tough road games ahead, and this game will give our guys confidence."

The Tide, which has been averaging about 12 turnovers per game, had almost a turnover a minute for the first 10 minutes Saturday.

In the second half, Alabama went on a 12-point run to take a 57-54 lead, but the Tide couldn't hold it. Charlotte came back to take the lead at 59-57 and Bama never had the lead again in regulation. And after a 59-59 tie, it wasn't tied again until Winston hit a short jumper with three seconds to play and tie the game at 78 and send it to overtime. Winston had 12 of Bama's final 15 points in regulation play.

In the first overtime, Bama had an 83-80 lead, but a UNC trey tied the game with a minute to play. Alabama had the ball with the chance for the final shot in the first overtime, but Winston's try rolled off the rim, sending the game to its second extra five-minute period tied at 83.

With Davis (14 points, 9 rebounds) and Steele both fouling out in the second overtime, Alabama fell behind by four points at 91-87 with two minutes to play, but Winston cut it to two with a pair of free throws and freshman Al Weber drove for a layup to tie the game at 91-91. The 49ers, who missed a number of clutch free throws, made a pair to go up 93-91 with just under 50 seconds to play, and it seemed the game was over when Bama attempted to foul in the final seconds. But a tie-up was called, giving the ball to Bama with 26.4 seconds to play, and Jermareo Davidson scored a layup to tie the game at 93 with 20 seconds remaining.

Davidson had his second double-double of the year and also had a career high in scoring with 21 points before fouling out in the third overtime. He had 13 rebounds.

UNC was able to make only two of six free throws in the early going of the third overtime, but that was enough to have a 95-93 lead with under three minutes to play. Jean Felix drove for a layup and a tie game, but Bama gave up an immediate layup at the other end to trail by two with 1:45 to play.

Winston had a key putback to tie the game and he was fouled on the play. His free throw gave Bama the lead at 98-97. But UNC re-took the lead with a pair of free thjrows. Freshman Al Weber gave Bama the lead at 100-99 with a driving layup with a minute to play. The 49ers got the lead at 101-100. And then Winston made a short jumper with 20 seconds to play to make it 102-101, Bama's way.

Charlotte tried one shot with about four seconds to play and Winston blocked it out of bounds. Two shots by the 49ers in the final ticks missed the mark and Bama had its win.

Gottfried called it, "One of the best basketball games I've ever been a part of."

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