Tide barely escapes over AIA

In the world of sport, winning is always better than losing. But beyond that note Alabama had little positive to take out of its desultory 72-71 exhibition win over Athletes in Action.

The University of Alabama basketball team was able to withstand a last second frenzy under the basket as senior Kenny Walker blocked a Wayne Walker shot from point blank range. "Coach (Gottfried) told us they would try to run two high ball screens to get someone open," Walker said, "which they did. I just came weak side and blocked the shot. I was just trying to help the team win."

Thursday's game marked the final exhibition contest for the Tide. Earlier Alabama won 97-94 over EA Sports. Next Thursday, November 14th, the Tide will tip off its regular season versus third-ranked Oklahoma in the Coaches versus Cancer Classic held in New York City.

Clearly disgusted with his team's performance, Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried pointed to point guard Mo Williams as the only bright spot offensively for Alabama. "Mo kept us in the game," Gottfried said. "They (AIA) made us play."

"Obviously it wasn't one of their best games," said Athletes in Action Head Coach John Farwell of Bama's performance. "I don't think the guys were too enthused to play us. Sometimes exhibition games can be hard for teams to get up and play for with not many people in the stands and the game doesn't count on their record. So maybe motivation is a factor."

For the second game in a row, Alabama's scoring skewed heavily toward just two players. Williams led the Tide with 31 points. Last season's SEC Freshman of the Year nailed six three-pointers in the game and also led all players with six assists. Senior Erwin Dudley contributed 14.

"We need to go out and work on some things," Dudley said. "We made a lot of mental mistakes that shouldn't have happened. We've just got to get better."

Having worked hard on his shooting all summer, Thursday marked the second game in a row that Williams has tallied 30+ points to lead his team in scoring. "I am just trying to do what it takes to win," Williams said. "These guys have done a great job of getting me open."

Several injuries forced the Tide to play the game short-handed. Starting shooting guard Earnest Shelton injured his left foot in practice Wednesday and was held out to recuperate. In his absence Demetrius Smith started, playing 28 minutes. Smith was 1-for-4 on the night with one free throw for a total of four points.

Reserve point guard Antoine Pettway hurt his knee late in practice Wednesday. Guard Jason Reese was also held out of action after breaking his nose in a collision at practice. Without Pettway's minutes off the bench, Williams played longer than he normally would. "I thought Mo got tired a little there toward the end," Gottfried said. "He missed a few shots short."

The AIA touring team was led by guard Saddi Washington's 24 points. Former NBA center Casey Shaw and guard Ryan Sears chipped in 11 points each. Washington, a former Western Michigan standout, also dished out a team high five assists for the game.

Besides Dudley and Williams, no other Tide player scored in double figures. Seniors starters Kenny Walker and Terrance Meade scored nine points each. "Those two guys have been around for four years," Gottfried said. "And they're going to have to play better."

Athletes in Action outrebounded the Tide 40 to 33. Dudley was Bama's leading rebounder with eight. Walker and Meade contributed five apiece. Reserve forward Eric Kubel paced AIA with seven boards.

The Tide shot 38.7 percent for the game, 45 percent from behind the three-point arc. AIA was 44.4 and 41.7 percent respectively. Alabama hit on 15 of 22 free throws (.681). Athletes in Action shot 90 percent (18 of 20) from the charity stripe.

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