Tide Reaches Tourney Finals

The Alabama men's basketball team of Coach Mark Gottfried, ranked eighth in the nation, had great spurts at the end of both the first and second halves and took a 65-57 win over South Carolina to reach the finals of the Southeastern Conference Championship Tournament.

Alabama, the SEC regular season champion and number one seed from the Western Division, will meet the number two seed from the West, Mississippi State, for the SEC Tournament Championship. Tipoff for the title game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will be at 1 p.m. EST (noon central time) Sunday with national television coverage by CBS. Bama and Mississippi State split their regular season games, Bama winning 85-73 in Tuscaloosa, Mississippi State taking a 76-62 decision in Starkville. Mississippi State has won six games in a row and seven of its last eight games.

Alabama will be playing for its seventh SEC Tournament championship Sunday. Only Kentucky has more. Of course, Kentucky has a lot more. The Wildcats have won the tournament 23 times.

Bama is now 26-6 on the year and has won 14 of 18 games against SEC opponents.

Sunday is NCAA Tourenament Selection Day. Both Alabama and Mississippi State are in the tournament and their positions will not be affected by the championship game. Alabama is expected to be a number two seed.

Alabama scored the final eight points of the game with something of a controversy after the Tide had 10 points in the final minute of the first half. That first half spurt gave the Tide a 38-28 halftime lead in a game that had been tied at 23 with three minutes to play.

With just over 30 seconds to play in the game, South Carolina had the ball in a game tied at 57-57, the first time since the first half the Gamecocks had tied the game. Mo Williams forced a turnover, which was picked up by Rod Grizzard. Grizzard made a pass to Antoine Pettway, who was ahead of the defense for a layup. Pettway missed the shot and appeared to be fouled. However, Kenny Walker was following the play, jammed through a follow-up shot and was fouled. Walker made the free throw for a 60-57 win. South Carolina missed subsequent shots and Bama free thows and a final Walker putback extended the Bama lead to the final margin.

Indeed, it was Alabama success at the free throw line that was the difference in the game. Alabama hit 20 of 26 fouls shots, while South Carolina -- which did n't have a free throw opportunity in the first half -- made only three of only eight free throw opportunities.

Kenny Walker had his second best career scoring game as he tossed in 21 points -- six in the last 30 seconds. He also had six rebounds -- four in the last 30 seconds.

Bama out-rebounded South Carolina 36-32. Erwin Dudley just missed a double-double, getting 10 points and nine rebounds. Terrance Meade had 15 points. A day after hitting for a career-high 33 points, Grizzard was held to only seven against the Gamecocks.

Alabama had defeated South Carolina, 52-51, in the regular season meeting in Columbia, the Tide coming from 15 points down after having scored only 15 points in the first half. In that game Grizzard hit the winning shot with only two seconds to play.

BamaMag Top Stories