Alabama had three players in double figures, but it may have been the most valuable contributions came from two Tiders – Jean Felix and Ron Steele – who had only nine points each. Kennedy Winston (despite missing a meaningless lay-in late in the game) had 19 points, Chuck Davis had 18, and Earnest Shelton 16 to lead Bama scoring. But two three-pointers near the end of the first half by back-up Felix and nine assists against only two turnovers by point guard Steele were instrumental in Bama pulling away from South Carolina.
Steele's work was one reason Alabama had 22 assists for the Tide's 28 field goals and only seven team turnovers, with two of those turnovers coming by deep subs in the final minute of play.
The victory was Bama's fourth in a row and third straight at home and 10th Southeastern Conference win of the year. The 16th-ranked Tide continues to lead the SEC Western Division with a 10-2 league record and Alabama is 21-4 overall. South Carolina, coming off a 12-point win over Kentucky, fell to 6-6 in conference play and 14-9 overall.
The Gamecocks Dave Odom said, "We were beaten by the best team we have played this year on this particular day. No one has played better against us." In addition to beating Kentucky, South Carolina lost four-point road games to second-ranked Kansas and 17th-rated Pittsburgh.
Odum added, "At this time Alabama is playing the best in the league. That could change." He said Alabama's home game against Kentucky a week from today "should be a really good basketball game." He said Alabama and Kentucky are similar in the ability to score inside or outside.
Odum noted that Alabama has four starters back from last year. "And the position they lost, point guard, is stronger this year than last year. That's nothing against Antoine Pettway, for whom I have great admiration. Ronald Steele is a terrific player. He controls the game without controlling the ball."
South Carolina pulled to within a point of Bama at 24-23 with five minutes to play in the first half, but the Tide out-scored the Gamecocks, 12-2, in those last five minutes. Eight of the 12 points came from Felix, who came off the bench to hit a pair of three-point shots and two free throws.
Odum said he hoped his team would be able to "put out that fire and come back after halftime and chip away at the lead. Instead, Alabama got better, They smelled blood. That's the sign of a good team."
After South Carolina's Tarence Kinsey hit a three-pointer to start the second half, Shelton and Kennedy each hit a pair of treys around a short shot by Jermareo Davidson. A third Shelton trey put Bama out by 53-30 less than five minutes into the second half.
Bama led by as many as 30 points.
Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried, who had complained about a lack of attendance at last Wednesday's game against Arkansas, praised the sold-out crowd Saturday. (There were empty seats in the student section, but all the "paid" seats were sold and most were filled.)
South Carolina made only 10 of 30 shots in the first half. That was the good news. The bad news was that of the 20 missed shots by the Gamecocks, South Caroloina got as many rebounds as Alabama–10 each. And four of the Gamecocks field goals were putbacks from those rebounds.
Gottfried said, "At halftime we felt we were doing some things really well, but one glaring problem was them getting two many offensive rebounds. We corrected that in the second half. I thought in the second half our defense was pretty good."
Although South Carolina had a rebounding edge at halftime (18-15), Alabama finished with 36 rebounds to 30 for South Carolina. No Tider got more than five rebounds.
Shelton missed his first four three-point attempts, but hit four of his next six (all in the second half) as Alabama was good on 13-of-27 treys, 48.1 per cent. Steele made all three of his tries, Winston 3-7, Felix 2-5, and Justin Jonus 1-2. Bama was also very good on free throws, hitting 18-21 for 85.7 per cent.
South Carolina took six more shots than Alabama. The Gamecocks were good on 26-61 (42.6 per cent) while Bama made 28-55 (50.9 per cent). The visitors were 9-21 (42.9 per cent) on treys and hit 7-11 foul shots (63.6 per cent).
Alabama is one game behind Kentucky for the overall lead in the SEC and the Wildcats come to Tuscaloosa next Saturday. But in between is a very important game, Gottfried said. Alabama will go to LSU Tuesday for a game that will tipoff at 8 p.m. CST and be telecast nationally by ESPN. Alabama defeated LSU, 73-58, in Tuscaloosa earlier this year. LSU is in second place in the SEC West, and Gottfried said, "We have great respect for LSU. They are a good team. They will be in the NCAA Tournament."
The Tide coach said, "This team has been able to focus on the next game. We have been ready for each game."
Shelton said, "Our destiny is in our hands and we can win the SEC Championship. It's something that is our goal. But it isn't going to happen if we don't come out Tuesday night and win."