Tide Takes Title in Vegas

LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas is known for its shows, and Alabama put one on Sunday night complete with a supporting cast. The Crimson Tide hopped a redeye flight home after some red-hot shooting led to the championship of the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic.

The Tide is now 9-3 after an 83-68 win over Iowa State in the title game at the Orleans Arena, just a few miles from the famous Strip and the afore-mentioned shows.

"That's probably as good as we've run our offense this year," said Tide coach Mark Gottfried. "I liked the way we moved the ball. We were sharing the ball well, and getting good shots."

Bama finished the game shooting 54.4 per cent from the floor, and 64.7 behind the arc. Alabama won the battle of the boards, 34-27.

"I thought Alonzo (Gee) on the backboard was terrific. He plays so hard. It's contagious."

Tourney MVP Mykal Riley scored 18 points to go with six rebounds, but the senior had plenty of help. Joining him on the All-Tourney team were Gee, who scored a game-high 23, and Richard Hendrix, who poured in 18. Gee grabbed 11 boards and Hendrix had seven.

"Mykal Riley got the MVP, but that could have been a number of different players. It easily could have been (Gee), or Richard. It was a good team award for us."

Hendrix had 48 points the final two nights of the tourney.

Freshman Rico Pickett scored a career-high 13, and dealt five assists against just one turnover. A pair of 3-balls by Pickett and a dunks by Riley and Hendrix gave Bama an early 10-5 lead.

The Tide hit its first five 3-pointers en route to a 23-19 lead midway through the half. As impressive as Bama's first-half long-ball shooting was (6-for-9), its perimeter defense was equally unimpressive in the first 20 minutes, as the Cyclones nailed 6-of-12 behind the arc.

The teams hit the locker room tied at 40, after ISU's Diante Garrett drove, drew a foul on Pickett and hit a pair of free throws with 2.8 seconds left, and Hendrix caught a full-court pass from Demetrius Jemison between two Cyclones and laid it in as time expired.

Hendrix played only eight minutes after picking up his second personal foul at the 7:59 mark, but was re-inserted for the last 2.8 seconds for the final play. Gee's 12 points kept Alabama in the game as Hendrix sat out. Twice, the junior rebounded missed shots, drew fouls, and hit both free shots.

Gee began the second half with a spin move for a bucket. Jemison then grabbed an offensive rebound and stroked a 15-footer for a four-point lead. Gee hit a bomb from the left wing, but back-to-back dunks by Iowa State's Jiri Hubalek and Rahshon Clark forced a Gottfried time-out with his team up 49-46 at the 16:13 mark.

"Alabama is a good team, with a lot of very good players," said Hubalek. "They just got on fire."

That the Tide did, outscoring the Cyclones 34-22 the rest of the way.

"We came out, and turned it up a notch," Riley said, adding that the Tide put "more pressure on the ball. We went to our zone, and and they really couldn't score against the zone."

Pickett hit a 3-pointer for a 54-46 lead, and Riley's bomb from the right wing drew an ISU timeout at the 12:17 mark with UA up 61-51, its biggest lead of the game at the time. When Riley stole the ball and dunked at the 4:30 mark to put the Tide up 78-62, it was time to polish the tourney hardware.

"We guarded some things a bit differently, which I thought helped us," said Gottfried of his team's effort in the final 20 minutes, specifically "the adjustments we made on some ball screens."

Alabama (9-3) will host George Washington Dec 29. The Cyclones fell to 7-5 despite 20 points from Wesley Johnson, the only Cyclone in double figures.

Discuss the Tide victory and Alabama basketball at BamaMag.com's free basketball board (click here).

BamaMag Top Stories