Gottfried had a halftime message for his team

Being down by 13 points on the road at halftime was bad enough, but Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried has just seen his team score a measly 15 points in the first 20 minutes. But a locker room expecting to be blistered for the terrible offensive performance, was in for a surprise. <br><br>"The first thing I told them at halftime was that we're going to win the game," Gottfried related afterwards. "We're going to climb the mountain."

Rallying from what became a 15-point deficit to a 52-51 victory, Gottfried's players made him a prophet. But at the time he delivered a motivational speech reminiscent of Coach Paul Bryant's famous "We've got them right where we want them" locker room talk.

Gottfried continued his halftime recollection; "I told them, ‘We are going to win the game. We're going to climb the mountain, and once we get to the top we're going to tie the score up. And then we're going to push ahead. Then we'll make our move.'"

Good stuff. And thankfully, the Tide players were listening.

Erwin Dudley related his version; "Coach (Gottfried) told us at halftime that if we didn't believe we could win the game, then don't come out of the locker room."

For the jaded fans out there--convinced that modern college players are nothing more than selfish pre-professionals, looking out for No. 1--listen carefully to what Dudley had to say. "We were down by about 15 points coming into the second half, but we all believed that we could win. We stuck together. We didn't moan about the things that we didn't do. We just said the things that we could do and how we could get better.

"We came out in the second half and proved it."

Along with Rod Grizzard, Dudley led Alabama to its come-from-behind victory, scoring 20 points and snatching 11 rebounds. (Associated Press)

Led by Dudley's and Rod Grizzard's 20 point efforts, the Tide snatched victory from defeat. And they did it in the toughest of all venues--on the road against a tough, SEC opponent.

"It was one of the best wins I have ever seen," Dudley said. "It was unbelievable."

Prior to this season, Dudley, Grizzard and the rest of their teammates were hardly known as road warriors. The last two years they had won only once on the road in a conference opponent's arena. But this season Alabama has turned that piece of conventional wisdom on its ear.

"We fought back this time," Dudley said. "Against Mississippi State (a six-point loss in Starkville last Saturday) we played hard, but we didn't play like we should. Things didn't work out for us against Mississippi State. But we capitalized tonight."

Gottfried remarked afterwards that he had never been prouder of a group of athletes, but he also sees the win as vindication of his recruiting strategy. Since arriving at Alabama Gottfried has focused on signing close-by athletes, with good character and the desire to play for the Tide.

Gottfried explained; "I told our guys in the locker room after the game--and I meant it with all my heart--if you have a team with a bunch of bad eggs and selfish characters, I don't know if they can do that. I don't know if you can come back and overcome yourselves when you're not playing very well.

"But because we've got such good people--they're not down on each other when they're making mistakes. They're pulling for each other. They're fighting together. It's a beautiful thing. It just makes you proud."

After last season's disappointing end, in which a deserving Tide squad was left out of the NCAA Tournament, this Alabama squad has pointed to the spring ‘Dance' all season long.

And Gottfried knows all too well that even the best squad must be able to play from behind--if it hopes to have a shot at the Final Four. "For our team (this win) gives us confidence. It gives us a boost. It gives you a feel that you didn't have before.

"The way we had to win--that's a reference point for us. If in fact we get down at some point, we can draw right back to our experience (tonight). We know that we can come back. We can do that even when we're not playing our best basketball.

"From that perspective, it may do a lot for us."

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