Clutch Play Late Seals Bama Win

It wasn't North Carolina vs. Duke. There were some mistakes as would be expected of two teams trying to stay out of the SEC basement. But Alabama did things well enough to take an 82-71 victory over LSU in Tuscaloosa's Coleman Coliseum Saturday.

In the final five minutes Alabama – a notoriously poor free throw shooting team – made seven of eight foul shots, including the last four Tide opportunities in the closing seconds. For the game Bama was good on 16 of 24 foul shots, 66.7 per cent.

LSU, meanwhile, made 21-22 free thows (95.5 per cent). Tigers Coach John Brady skirted on the edge of Southeastern Conference reprimand. Although he did not criticize the officiating, Brady (who drew a technical foul in the second half) said "We shot 22 and I thought we should have thought about 32." He also intimated that LSU's smaller-bodied players were perhaps called for fouls when similar fouls against them by "thicker" players were overlooked.

The win improved Alabama's record to 13-9 overall and 2-5 in SEC play. LSU dropped to 8-13, including a 1-6 mark in SEC play.

This completed a four-game homestand for the Tide in which Alabama went 2-2. Now Bama goes on the road for back-to-back games against two of the league's best teams. Alabama will be at Mississippi State Wednesday (7 p.m. CST tipoff and no television) and at Kentucky for a noon CST Saturday game (Raycom television).

"It's difficult to win on the road, but we're going to get our team ready to play whether it's at home or on the road," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried.

Gottfried said he was proud of his team. He said the players "continue to battle, continue to compete hard."

The Tide coach said Bama played well in the final few minutes in protecting a slim lead against LSU. "We got the shots we wanted and for the most part we made good decisions. And we had to play good defense, too."

Alabama led most of the way, including leads of as much as 10 points in the first half. Bama led 43-35 at halftime. LSU made an early run to start the second half and took two-point leads at 48-46 and 51-49. A three-point shot by Justin Tubbs wiped out that first lead and Demetrius Jemison making an old-fashioned three – a field goal and free throw – gave Bama the lead for good at 52-51 with just under 12 minutes to play.

Dunks by Senario Hillman, Richard Hendrix and Alonzo Gee and a three-point shot by Brandon Hollinger with just over two minutes to play were keys as Alabama kept the game at two scores through most of the final nine minutes.

Hillman's play was noteworthy. He made a clutch three-point shot and all four of his free throws – including two in the final minute – and had nine points, two assists, four steals and a blocked shot. He also had a "sensational nothing," as Gottfried termed it. Early in the game on a breakout, Hillman attempted a 360 slam dunk, a move he has performed in the past. This one ricocheted off the back of the rim and sent Gottfried into a rage.

"He felt bad about it," Gottfried said. "He apologized to me."

Alabama outscored LSU by 14 points from the field. The Tide made 28-59 from the field, 47.5 per cent, while holding the Tigers to 21-'57 (36.8 per cent). The teams were nearly even in three-point shots, LSU 9-22 (40.9 per cent) and Alabama 9-21 (42.9 per cent).

Bama was led by Hendrix, who had a familiar double-double, 19 points and 17 rebounds. He also had three blocked shots and four steals and two assists. Three other Tiders scored in double figures – Mykal Riley with 19 (16 in the first half before he got in foul trouble in the second half), 15 by Gee, and 10 by Hollinger.

Gottfried commented on Hollinger having 10 points and six assists against only one turnover in 34 minutes of play.

Basketball battles football recruiting for attention in the first week in February at Alabama, and Saturday was no exception. Part of the sellout crowd of 15,316 included several hundred junior high school football players taking part in "Junior Day," their first organized introduction to Crimson Tide football and football coaches. And one of the biggest cheers of the day came when Bama partisans spotted Julio Jones in the audience. Jones, a wide receiver from Foley, is one of the nation's top uncommitted prospects. He will make his decision on a college known in an ESPN telecast on Signing Day, Wednesday. It previously had been announced that he would not make a campus visit this weekend.

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