Alabama Wins, Heads To Vegas

Alabama will trip to the desert of Nevada and head to the semifinals of the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic knowing what areas it needs to work on after a 75-65 win over Texas Pan-American Wednesday night.

"There are times I think we mishandled the ball a little bit, and we didn't finish defensive possessions," Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried began his "to do" list.

"Foul shooting, I think is going to keep improving," said Gottfried. "We've just got to get better."

Bama turned the ball over 10 times and made 7-of-12 free throws, a higher mark than the 54 per cent it entered the game with. Alabama improved to 7-3 on the season with its third straight win.

Gottfried said, "I thought our guys, at key times, played awfully well."

Richard Hendrix led four Tide players in double digits with 18 points and 8 rebounds. "When we were able to get it clicking, we were looking good out there," Hendrix said. He may have scored more had Hendrix not picked up his third foul with seven minutes left in the first half, forcing him to the bench. "That's just the nature of the sport," he said. "We just have to make adjustments during the game." UTPA was led by Zach Trader's 15 points. Nathan Hawkins, nephew of ex-NBA star George Gervin, added 11.

The Crimson Tide held a 40-34 lead at the half after officials (without the aid of TV replay) allowed a tip-in by Paul Stoll that appeared to come a half-second late. The Tide and Broncs traded buckets early before a 13-3 Bama run highlighted by Brandon Holllinger's 3-pointer and Alonzo Gee's dunk put Alabama up 25-13 with 9:57 left in the half. Gee finished with 11 points and Hollinger added 10.

Mykal Riley scored 11 of his 14 in the first 20 minutes. "I think we played pretty well," said Hollinger. "We shot 54 per cent from the field. That's a pretty good shooting night. We showed a lot of people that other guys can play besides, Richard, Alonzo Gee and Mykal Riley."

Broncs Coach (and former Mississippi State player) Tom Schuberth had to call timeouts twice during the second half to quell Bama runs, the second after a rare Hendrix 3-ball that put Bama up 73-52 with 4:50 left. Alabama allowed the Broncs (6-8) to finish the game on an 11-0 run. "We try not to make that a habit," Riley said. "We'll try to fix that."

Bama's opponent in Saturday's matchup in Vegas will be Missouri State, with a 7 p.m. Central tip-off. The winner of that contest will face off against the Iowa-Purdue winner Sunday while the losers will meet in a consolation game.

Playing quality opposition is a big reason the Bama players look forward to their trip to Las Vegas, but not the only one. "Most guys on our team haven't been there," Hollinger said. "That's going to be very exciting."

"I'm looking to playing against some high-quality opponents," said Hendrix. "It just gives you more credibility (towards) going to the NCAA Tournament. Its going to be good for us, and just let us know where we are as a team."

Gottfried agreed, to a point. "We'll have some opportunities in Vegas, and we'll have a couple of opportunities when we get back (with home games against George Washington and Clemson). We'll have 17 opportunities in the league. We just need to keep getting better, and keep improving."

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