Take your choice of which hoops jargon you want to use to describe Rod Grizzard's breakout performance against hapless Tennessee in round two of the 2002 SEC Basketball Tournament. Just hours after another well-known wearer of jersey number 21 was honored as an SEC Legend, Grizzard did his dead-level best to be considered the way Dominique Wilkins is for his three-year career at Georgia.
A Georgia Dome crowd of 20,427 saw Grizzard score 33 points to lead Alabama to a 91-72 win over Tennessee. The junior from Birmingham led a quartet of Tiders in double figures. Kenny Walker fouled out with 13, while Earnest Shelton dropped 10 on his home-state school. Mo Williams scored 13 and dished out four assists for the Tide (25-6), which was set to face the winner of the Kentucky-South Carolina matchup. Tipoff in Bama's semifinal game is set for 2:15 p.m. central time Saturday.
Grizzard entered the Tide's win over UT with a career-high of 29 points, set against Northern Iowa in December of 2000. By halftime, he already had 27 to stake UA to a 49-29 lead at the break. Grizzard was already 10-for-17 from the floor, and 6-10 behind the arc. The Vols could have double-teamed him with the guy in the coonskin cap and the mascot blue-tick hound.
Wouldn't have mattered.
"Rod in the first half was sensational," said Bama Head Coach Mark Gottfried. "He kinda got in that zone. His teammates realized it; he realized it. They were hunting for him, trying to find him and get the ball in his hands."
"Basically, I was just trying to find spots to get open," said Grizzard of his first-half mindset. "A lot of shots went down for me early. Shots fell. The last couple of weeks me and Coach (T.R.) Dunn shot maybe 100, 150 shots after practice trying to get my stroke back. I think that kinda contributed to it."
At one point, Grizzard scored 20 straight UA points.
The Tide could have gone scoreless the last ten minutes of the game and still won it; UA led 73-49 at that point and UT finished with 72 points. Bama shot 42.9% for the game to the Vols' 45.6, but UA held a commanding 45-33 advantage on the boards.
UA, which finished last in the SEC regular season in three-point shooting, already had ten treys at intermission. The Tide finished 11-29 (.379) for the game.
Grizzard tied his career best with an alley-oop slam two and a half minutes into the second stanza. He broke it on a short two point jumper less than a minute later to put Bama up 55-36. He took--and made--but three field goals in the second half.
"We were destined to have a day like that. It was a matter of time before shots went in for us," said Grizzard. "At that point in time we really needed that. I was fortunate to be in a position to make them."
"It's fun to watch Rod make shots like that," said Erwin Dudley. "He struggled last month...and he broke out of his shell."
The Vols did manage to hold SEC Player of the Year Dudley to six points, but the league's leading rebounder did nothing to hurt that standard by collecting 12 caroms. Terrance Meade had 10 boards for the Tide, but missed all 10 of his shots from the floor.
"Our thinking going into the game was to make sure we limited any inside touches by Dudley," said UT coach Buzz Peterson. "We went with our percentages. When Grizzard is hot like that, they can beat a lot of teams in the country."
UT was led by Vincent Yarbrough's 23 points, while Marcus Haislip added 17. The Vols (15-16) saw their season come to a close with a post-season trip not in the offing.
"Rod Grizzard is flammable," said Yarbrough. "Anytime he comes out and hits his first couple of shots, you know you're going to have a rough day."
Grizzzard punctutated his first half performance with a rare four-point play, on which he drained a 25-footer (at least) and was fouled by Haislip before converting the free throw. Gottfried said, "When he hit that four-point play... he was feeling pretty good. You try to keep an eye on him. Our guys know he's hot. They don't need me yelling anything to them about getting on him. He was 'in that zone.'"