Deception

Scanning the scores of college basketball games, one would find eighth-ranked Alabama with an apparently easy 80-58 Friday night victory over Lipscomb. It wasn't nearly as easy as that final score makes it appear.

Alabama led by only four points with 7:40 to play, by only seven points at 58-51 with 6:20 to play.

But in the next four minutes, Crimson Tide junior Mykal Riley scored 12 points, including three three-point shots as Bama stretched it out.

Lipscomb, coached by Tuscaloosa native Scott Sanderson, the son of legendary Crimson Tide Coach Wimp Sanderson, was well-prepared for Alabama. The Bisons, which fell to 8-5, used a four-guard attack that caused Alabama match-up problems. Sanderson, whose father was in the Coleman Coliseum crowd of 10,100, said "We wanted to move either Davidson or Hendrix away from the basket. We wanted to avoid blocked shots, because blocked shots often lead to easy baskets at the other end."

Neither Jermareo Davidson nor Richard Hendrix had a blocked shot and the Tide had only one in the game. "I think they had been averaging eight or nine a game," Sanderson said.

The visiting coach said he was pleased with the way the game went "for about 33 minutes, and then Riley hit some threes." Lipscomb had been able to hold the ball and shorten the game until Riley got a hot hand and forced the pace to pick up.

Lipscomb led most of the first half, by as many as eight points at 14-6, but the Tide struggled to a 33-30 halftime advantage. In the second half Alabama outscored the visitors by 47-28.

Alabama players confessed to a lack of intensity in the first half. Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried, who had played for Wimp Sanderson in Gottfried's playing career for the Tide, fixed that with a halftime speech.

"He didn't take a breath," said Hendrix. "That was the loudest it's been in the locker room since I've been here."

Gottfried said he doesn't want his team to fear any opponent, "but I had the feeling we weren't respecting Lipscomb." He added, "I thought we picked it up in the second half. The intensity was a lot better."

Alabama should respect its upcoming opponents. The Tide closes out pre-Southeastern Conference play with its most prestigious home non-conference opponent at 1:30 p.m. CST Monday when Oklahoma visits. The game will be telecast by ESPN.

Alabama improved to 12-1 with its 14th consecutive home victory.

Bama made dramatic improvement in its second half Friday night. After shooting 40 per cent from the field in the first half, the Tide hit 60 per cent in the second half and finished with 27 of 53 on field goals, 50.9 per cent. In the opening half, Bama was good on a third of its three-point tries, 4-12. In the second half the Tide made 6-11 on treys, 54.5 per cent.

And the second half improvement wasn't limited to shooting. In the first half, the Bisons had eight offensive rebounds. For the game, Lipscomb had only two more. (Alabama won the rebounding battle, 39-24.) In the first half, the visitors' Brian Fisk had 13 points. He finished with 16.

Alabama had only a 10-point margin in scoring from the field, but the Tide made 16 of 21 free throws while Lipscomb had only 4-7 on foul shots.

Riley led the Tide in scoring with 21 points, including 5-8 on three-pointers. Hendrix had his third straight double-double, his fifth in the last six games, as he scored 18 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Davidson just missed a double-double with 16 points and nine boards.

Alonzo Gee went into the game as Alabama's leading scorer with a 16.7 points per game average. He's still Bama's top scorer, but he's down to 15.5 points per game after scoring just two points in 36 minutes of play. Ronald Steele had six of Bama's 16 assists.


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