Defense Keys Win

Defense keyed a run of 17 unanswered Alabama points in the second half, and the Crimson Tide rolled to a 73-58 win over LSU in a Southeastern Conference basketball game in Tuscaloosa Saturday. Bama went from a 43-42 lead at the 16:10 mark to a 60-42 lead before LSU could stop the bleeding with 7:35 to play.

The win improved Alabama's record to 12-3 overall and evened Bama's mark at 1-1 in SEC games. It was the league opener for LSU, which fell to 6-5 overall. Both teams continue in SEC play next week, Alabama going to Arkansas for an 8 p.m. CST Tuesday ESPN game, LSU returning to Baton Rouge to host South Carolina at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday.

The win broke a three-game losing streak for Alabama against LSU.

Both Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried and LSU Coach John Brady discussed the confidence issue following the game. Gottfried said, "It was a good win for our confidence. We needed a game where we played well on both ends. And LSU is a good team. John is doing a good job."

Brady said, "We need to believe in ourselves more. I think we have a good team. But at crucial points we give teams too many easy baskets–second chance or off turnovers. If we clean up those two things, we can be pretty good."

While Alabama's defense was instrumental in the Crimson Tide building its second half lead, LSU's defense nearly got the Tigers back in the game in the late-going. An LSU full court press forced several turnovers and the Tigers were able to capitalize to cut Bama's 18-point lead to only 8 points at 65-57 with 3:40 to play.

Alabama freshman point guard Ron Steele was a key player for Alabama in the big run with two steals and two assists. And then when the Tigers got to within eight points, Steele canned a three-pointer to flip momentum back to the Tide.

While Alabama's second half defense was overall more effective than it was in the first half, when the Tide took only a 35-34 lead at intermission, Bama's defense on LSU star Brandon Bass was particularly good in the first half. Bass had just two first half points. He started quickly in the second half, but still finished with only 10 points, including only three-of-nine from the field.

Gottfried said, "Brandon Bass is a terrific player and I thought Chuck Davis played him really smart. With Glen Davis, they are pretty strong down there, and Chuck played well."

Davis said, "Brandon Bass is a great player. I tried to get a hand in his face. We didn't play very well on defense in the first half on their three-point shots, but came out in the second half and made them put it on the floor and shoot over us. They got only a couple of open looks on threes."

Bass had a different opinion. "I really didn't see them play much defense," he said. "We just made some careless mistakes."

The Tide's Kennedy Winston scored eight of his game-high 21 points in the 17-0 run. Both teams had four men in double figures. Earnest Shelton had 19 points, Steele had 14 and Davis 10. LSU was led by Davis with 13. Darrel Mitchell and Antonio Hudson, who was limited in the second half with a turned ankle, had 11 points each.

Winston, a junior, joined Alabama's 1,000-point club Saturday as his 21 points gives him 1,010. There are 37 Tiders who have scored 1,000 or more points, including Shelton, who reached the plateau earlier this year. Shelton is now two points away from overtaking Gottfried, who scored 1,056 in his three-year Tide playing career (1985-87).

Alabama's victory came despite poor shooting. Bama was 25-56 from the field, 44.6 per cent, and only 3-16 (18.8 per cent) on three-point shots. The Tide was very good from the foul line, hitting 20-24 free throws (83.3 per cent).

LSU was 20-47 (42.6 per cent) from the field, but only 7-24 (29.2 per cent) in the second half. The Tigers were 8-16 on three-point shots and 10-13 (76.9 per cent) on free throws.

A big difference was LSU having 18 turnovers (and Bama scoring 19 points off those miscues), while LSU scored 10 points off Alabama's nine turnovers. Alabama had only a 31-29 advantage in rebounding, but outscored the Tigers 30-20 in the paint and had 14 second chance points to LSU's 9. Alabama got eight rebounds each from Davis and Jermareo Davidson and seven from Shelton, while LSU was led by the 6-9, 310-pound Davis with seven.


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