Close, But No Cigar Against Vols
The Alabama basketball team continued its Southeastern Conference slide Tuesday night, but in this case the loss was understandable. Tennessee, ranked seventh in the nation, won for only the second time in its last 18 games. The Vols broke from a halftime tie to score 60 second half points and defeat Bama, 93-86.
The loss dropped Alabama's record to 12-9 overall and a dismal 1-5 in SEC play. Tennessee improved to 18-2 overall and 5-1 in conference games.
Alabama concludes its four-game homestand at 2 p.m. CST Saturday, hosting LSU.
The Tide battled Tennessee to a 33-33 tie at halftime, but the Vols wasted no time in taking the lead for good in the second half. Alabama had the advantage of the ball to start the second half, but threw the ball away on the inbounds pass and Wayne Chism stuck a three-pointer.
The Vols went on a 12-2 run to open the second half. Bama was able to crawl back into the game, once getting within a point of Tennessee, but could never take the lead.
The primary reason was that Tennessee found its shooting touch in the second half. After hitting only 31 per cent from the field in the first half, the visitors connected on an incredible 69.2 per cent in the second half. The difference in the game was Tennessee's three-point shooting. The Vols made 9-12 in the second half and 12-27 for the game.
Alabama's offense was good, too. Bama made more field goals than Tennessee (33-31), although Tennessee scored more points from the field because of its 12 three-pointers to Alabama making only 4-13. Alabama managed 60 per cent field goal shooting in the second half and 50 per cent for the game.
Tennessee dominated the backboards, in part because Alabama played much of the game with a four-guard line-up. The Vols had 45 rebounds, including an impressive 21 offensive boards. Bama had 36 rebounds, 12 of them by Richard Hendrix.
Neither team was very good on free throws, but the Vols made 15 of 19 in the second half and 19 of 28 for the game, while Alabama struggled, making 16 of 27.
Hendrix made a layup with 1:44 to play that cut the Tennessee lead to two points, 83-81. But the Vols got one of their open three-point attempts at the other end and JuJuan Smith knocked it down.
"That was a dagger shot," said Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl. "It's a shot he shoots. It's a shot you have to make. It was a game-winner."
Hendrix, who scored 20 points for the Tide despite having some foul problems, said it was "frustrating to play 25 or 30 seconds of defense on a possession, then have them find an open man in the corner for a three."
Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "They are very good. Tennessee is an excellent team. They hit some shots, most with a hand in the face."
The Tide coach said he was "disappointed, but proud," citing the effort his team game.
While Tennessee scored 60 second half points, the Tide managed 53 points. And that was, as Gottfried said, without starting wing Mykal Riley ever "getting into the offense." Riley had three quick fouls and played only 11 minutes, scoring only four points.
Also playing only 11 minutes was starting forward Demetrius Jemison, who had two points, three rebounds and three turnovers.
Alabama, which had only four turnovers in blasting Auburn Saturday, had a much tougher time of it against the swarming Tennessee defense. In the first four minutes of the game Bama turned the ball over seven times. For the game, though, Tennessee had 23 turnovers to 20 for Alabama.
Alonzo Gee had an excellent game for Bama. He had a game-high 27 points on 10-17 field goal shooting and 6-10 free throws. He joined Alabama's 1,000-Point Club with his lone three-point shot early in the second half. He also had nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
Mikhail Torrance and Senario Hillman came off the bench for the Tide and scored 12 points each.
Tennessee was led by Chris Lofton with 23 points, JuJuan Smith with 20, and Tyler Smith with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
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