Tide Slips By UNO

While Alabama has been playing basketball for a month and a half and been ranked among the nation's top teams, basketball can really begin now. The end of the football bowl season historically has coincided with the beginning of Southeastern Conference basketball competition and a spike in the interest of Crimson Tide fans in roundball. Saturday night Bama completed non-conference basketball play with a lackluster 68-57 victory over New Orleans.

Alabama is now 10-2 on the season and ranked 18th in the nation by the Associated Press and 12th in the Coaches Poll conducted by ESPN and USA Today.

Bama goes to Nashville Wednesday to open SEC play against Vanderbilt. The game will be nationally telecast by ESPN and tip off at 9 p.m. CST at Memorial Gym. Vanderbilt is 8-4 overall, but 8-0 at home, including a 90-74 win over Dayton Wednesday.

Although few in the crowd at Coleman Coliseum (paid attendance was 7,988, but actual attendance was probably about half that) were likely impressed with Bama's performance, Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried was far from critical. The Crimson Tide was coming off a 76-62 loss at Wisconsisn on Monday. Gottfried said, "I really like the way we played the first half. We did a lot of things well we didn't do in our previous game. I think I broke the rhythm by substituting so freely in the second half, but I thought it was important to get some guys some minutes. And I think they did some things well."

One thing almost everyone would agree with is that Alabama's first half performance was better than was the play after intermission. Alabama hit 50 per cent from the field, including 54.5 per cent on three-point shots, and had a 41-24 lead at halftime. In the second half Alabama cooled off to only 26 per cent shooting from the field, bringing the mark down to 38.3 per cent for the game (18-47). Bama made only one of five treys in the second half and finished with seven of 16 for 43.8 per cent.

UNO, a Sunbelt Conference team which fell to 5-8 on the season, outscored Alabama 33-27 in the second half. For the game the Privateers of Coach Monte Towe hit six more field goals than Bama. Alabama essentially won the game at the free throw line as Bama's inside game forced 25 UNO fouls and Bama converted 25 of 33 free shots. UNO hit seven of 10.

Gottfried said, "I thought UNO kept competing. I didn't think the game was ever in doubt. That's no disrespect to them. But I wanted to look at some things and thought we accomplsihed that."

Alabama played 10 men in the game and all 10 scored. But there had to be a little concern that the Tide got so little out of the inside men in the halfcourt game against primarily a man-to-man defense. The game turned into a perimeter game and when Bama's outside shots didn't fall, the Privateers were able to make a late run.

Chuck Davis with eight points and Kennedy Winston with seven never made it into double figures in scoring. Winston was particularly cool, hitting only one of seven field goal attempts. Jermareo Davidson finally made it into double digit scoring with just over two minutes to play and finished with 12 points. The Tide was led in scoring by Earnest Shelton, who hit only four of 11 field goal attempts but scored 14 points. Ron Steele had 10 points.

The Tide had a hard time with UNO guard Bo McCalebb, who had a game-high 26 points, 16 in the second half. McCalebb was last year's Sunbelt freshman of the year.

Davidson was the leading rebounder in the game with nine, but Alabama had only a 36-33 advantage as Davis had only four in 25 minutes of play.

UNO's big men were not scoring threats with starting post players combining for only six points. But the visitors managed a 38-14 advantage over Alabama in points in the paint.

Of Alabama's first nine SEC games, the Tide will play six on the road. In answer to a question, Gottfried said the way he would view that is, "We'll have a lot of home games in the second half of the season."

Bama returns home following the Vanderbilt contest to host LSU at 5 p.m. CST next Saturday.

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