Mo Williams Leads Tide Victory

Alabama rode the shooting of freshman point guard Mo Williams to a struggling 86-78 win over Florida Atlantic in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina, Thursday afternoon. Williams hit a career-high 33 points and also pulled down a career-best 10 rebounds in leading the second-seeded Crimson Tide past the determined Owls, seeded 15th.

Alabama improved its record to 27-7. Next up for Bama will be the Kent State Golden Flashes, who turned in a mild upset Thursday, a 69-61 win over Oklahoma State. (Kent State was a 10 seed and Oklahoma State a seven.) Kent State has a 28-5 record and is on a 19-game winning streak. Tipoff time for Saturday afternoon's game will be announced Friday.

FAU, which finished its season at 19-12, was attempting to become the fifth 15th seed in NCAA Tournament history to upset a number two seed. The Owls made a good attempt at the upset. After falling behind by 11 points early in the first half, FAU stormed back to take a 40-38 halftime lead. Alabama was plagued by turnovers on offense and nonchalance on defense. Additionally, the Owls were holding their own in rebounding.

Bama came out strong in the second half. Bama quickly went ahead and the Owls were never able to regain the lead. However, FAU tied the game at 61-61 and again a moment later at 64-64 with only seven and a half minutes to play. But keyed by Williams, Alabama scored 10 consecutive points and took control of the game. Bama would lead by as many as 12 points down the stretch.

Much was made of Rod Grizzard scoring his career high just a week ago in a Southeastern Conference game against Tennessee. In his 90th game, Grizzard scored 31 points. Williams, who had previously scored 17 for a career best against Arkansas, got his career high of 33 points in his 34th game at Alabama. Williams, who also had six assists, connected on nine of 13 field goal attempts, including three-of-three on three-pointers, and 12 of 13 free throws.

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried, speaking of Williams after the game, said, "He's made a tremendous difference. He's what we didn't have before. He came out and showed what a player he is. He's been a terrific player for us all year."

Alabama is an excellent free throw shooting team and this was another game in which Bama foul shots were the difference. Bama was good on 27 of 30 foul shots, 90 per cent. Bama hit 50 per cent from the field and was good on 36 per cent of its three-point shots. FAU also shot well, hitting 44 per cent from the field, 29 per cent on treys, and 93 per cent on free throws.

Alabama won the rebound battle, 38-30. Erwin Dudley just missed joining Williams with a double-double as Dudley had 15 points and nine rebounds. Antoine Pettway had 12 points and Terrance Meade 10.

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