Bama's Thursday game against Memphis will begin at 9 p.m. CST Thursday at Coleman Coliseum. The game will be telecast by ESPN2. The winner of that game advances to New York's Madison Square Garden next week for the semifinals and finals.
Alabama's three returning starters from last year, pre-season All-Southeastern Conference performers Chuck Davis, Ron Steele and Jermareo Davidson, were the top scorers for Bama. But back-up wing players Justin Jonus and Alonzo Gee provided the second half spark that enabled the Tide to break from a 31-31 intermission tie.
Davis and Davidson both hit several perimeter shots. Davis finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Davidson and Steele had 10 points each.
Jonus opened the second half with a three-point field goal. He had a chance for a four-point play when he was fouled, but missed the free throw. Alabama went to a press that paid dividends. Gee had three second half steals and turned them into dunks, scoring eight points, all in the second half.
Gee, a true freshman, had not gotten the pre-season publicity of freshman inside player Richard Hendrix (who had two points and five rebounds in 10 minutes of play). But Gee was not a secret to Miami Coach Charlie Coles. "We knew about Gee," he said. "It's not like he got Alabama's last scholarship; not like he was a vice president's son given a scholarship."
Coles said, "Their press disrupted our fast break and got us out of sync. Definitely, the press got us."
Alabama scored 17 points off turnovers, 14 of them in the second half.
Coles was complimentary of Alabama's team, but was justifiably proud of his Red Hawks, who kept it close until the end. Indeed, Miami was in charge for much of the first half. After Alabama opened up a seven-point lead at 18-11, the Red Hawks ran off 13 straight points to take a 24-18 lead.
Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I think we beat a very good basketball team, a well-coached team. They were efficient on offense, not taking bad shots, and we had to work for all our shots."
Gottfried acknowledged the importance of the press in helping Bama to the win. "I don't know if it's going to be our bread-and-butter, but it's something we may use," he said.
Gottfried said he is excited that Memphis will be coming to Tuscaloosa for Thursday night's game. Memphis was a 79-52 Tuesday night winner over Milwaukee-Wisconsisn (the team that eliminated Bama from last year's NCAA Tournament). Many had expected Thursday's game to be in Memphis, but reportedly no suitable arena was available, so the contest will be in Coleman Coliseum. The remodeled coliseum was almost as exciting to the 7,816 in attendance as was the game.
Gottfried said, "Memphis is very, very talented. We'll have to play a lot better than we did tonight to have a chance."