Defense Keys Tide Basketball Win

Alabama football coach Nick Saban talks a lot about "finishing." Perhaps the Alabama basketball team has been listening to Saban's interviews.

Sluggishly playing another mid-major opponent and leading Louisiana-Lafayette by only four points at intermission, the basketball Tide won the second half 31-18 to defeat the visitors, 61-44.

This is finals week and there are no mid-week Crimson Tide games. Alabama returns to action at 7 p.m. CST Saturday hosting Texas A&M. Alabama is now 5-2. Louisiana dropped to 2-4.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried took note of the play of sophomore wing guard Senario Hillman. "Aggressive play is part of Hillman's game," Gottfried said. "I liked our defensive effort today. Our defense continues to get better. That was the key to today."

Louisiana Coach Robert Lee had a simple explanation for the outcome. "Our inability to score the basketball," he said. "When you're unable to score and hit free throws. And they took us out of what we wanted to do. They are very physical. That led to a very poor shooting performance."

Louisiana shot 17 per cent in the second half, and 25 per cent for the game. Alabama shot 39 per cent overall, but 41 per cent in the final 20 minutes.

"First half, I wasn't giving 100 per cent to help my team out," said Hillman, a sophomore. "Second half, I felt like I needed to come on with it, and do what I could to help my team get the win."

Hillman scored 16 of his co-game-high 18 points in the final 20 minutes to lead the Tidal surge.

"I just played hard-nosed ‘D' (defense) and I just had to do all I could to help the team out," Hillman added. "That's what I'm going to try to do on a regular basis. That's what I like to do: drive to the basket."

Ronald Steele scored nearly half his team's 30 first half points (12). Fellow senior Gee tallied a par of old-fashioned three-point plays to help Bama jump out to an 11-1 lead. Hillman fed Gee for a dunk and a 24-14 advantage at the five minute mark, but the Tide fizzled down the stretch and led 30-26 at intermission.

Ron Steele finished the game with 14 points, while Gee chipped in 18 to tie Hillman for game honors.

"Alonzo Gee had one of his most complete, all-around efforts," said Gottfried.

Hillman fed Gee for a punctuating dunk to put the Tide up 59-40, then tomahawked one of his own to make it 61-42 with 48 seconds left. Earlier, Hillman had missed a dunk, but he played through it.

"He's an aggressive player," Gottfried said. "Sometimes maybe too aggressive, but that's how we want (Hillman) to play."

"We just kind of took over the second half, me and Alonzo," Hillman said. "That's what we needed to do to win.

"We tried to fight through all the screens, and I think everybody did well."

Bama was even with Louisiana on the backboards with 30 each at the 10:55 mark, but the Tide finished the game by out-boarding the Ragin‚ Cajuns, 49-15. "From the 11-minute mark, until 20 seconds left in the game, our defense didn't allow a basket," Gottfried pointed out.

Junior Yamene Coleman contributed on the boards with a game-high 11.

"Defensive rebounds; that's the key," said Coleman. "We just wanted to give them one shot. We wanted to play great ‘D‚' get the rebound, and go run our offense."

Hillman had eight boards, while Gee and freshman JaMychal Green grabbed seven each. Travis Bureau lead the Ragin‚ Cajuns with 16 points.

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