Hillman Leads Tide Past LSU, 65-59

Alabama's Senario Hillman thought that LSU wanted Bama's sophomore guard on the free throw line as thge Bengal Tigers fought to pull out a Southeastern Conference basketball win in Tuscaloosa Sunday afternoon. Be careful what you wish for.

Senario Hillman made seven of eight free throws in the final 41 seconds and scored Alabama's final nine points as the Crimson Tide opened SEC play with a 65-59 win over LSU in Coleman Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Hillman had a career high 24 points with 20 of them in the second half.

"I knew I had to make them, so I took my time," Hillman said of his late-game free throw shooting. "I had never been in a situation where I had to make free throws to ice the game. They probably wanted me to be the one shooting them."

Hillman is not a horrible free throw shooter, but LSU was making it a point to not foul Ron Steele or Alonzo Gee.

In addition to his clutch free throws, Hillman had a huge defensive play as the game block ticked under three minutes. With Alabama holding a 56-54 lead, Hillman stole the ball at midcourt, raced in for the dunk. That would be the final field goal of the game for Bama, but LSU would have only one more basket, a three-pointer by Bo Spencer with 27 seconds to play.

The win improved Alabama to 11-4 overall and gave Bama a 1-0 SEC record, the first time since 2003 the Crimson Tide has opened league play with a victory. Last year Alabama lost its first four SEC games en route to a 5-11 league record. LSU fell to 12-3 and 0-1.

Only two SEC Western Division teams posted victories in the opening weekend of conference play and they will play Wednesday in Starkville. Bama will go to Mississippi State to take on the Bulldogs, who had a surprising 70-56 win over Arkansas in Fayetteville. Bama and State will play at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday. The Bulldogs have a current four-game winning streak against Alabama.

Alonzo Gee produced his third double-double performance of the season, and the 11th of his Alabama career, with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

The Crimson Tide won despite being bettered in most statistical categories. One key stat that went in Alabama's favors was turnovers, in which the Tide committed 10 to LSU's 17. Alabama committed only 3 turnovers in the second half of today's victory.

But the statistic that LSU Coach Trent Johnson seemed to notice more, and seemed to be biting his lip to keep from commenting on, was free throws. Alabama made 23-25, LSU 6-10. "There were things going on out there I couldn't figure out," he said. "Those things happen when you play on the road."

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried called it "a good win" against "a good team."

He was particularly complimentary of Alonzo Gee's hustle in the game. Gee had two big saves to keep Alabama in control of the ball with the clock running down, saving a rebound from going out of bounds and tying up the ball on a rebound.

Gpottfried complimented Hillman for his confidence and courage.

The Tide coach said that Ron Steele is suffering from a slight heel injury that affected his play. Steele hit only 2-10 from the field, only 1-6 on three pointers and missed his only two free throw attempts. He had three turnovers and only two assists. That said, his three-point shot increased Alabama's lead to four points at 40-36 after LSU had cut it to one, and seconds later Steele made his steal and got the ball to Gee for a layup and a six-point lead.

LSU never led in the game and the only tie came at 2-2.

Alabama was terrible shooting, hitting only 20-53 (37.7 per cent) from the field, 2-10 (20 per cent) on three-pointers and 23-35 (65.7 per cent) on foul shots. LSU made five more field goals (25-57 for 43.9 per cent) and one more three-pointer (3-13 for 23.1 per cent) and was good on 6-10 free throws (60 per cent). LSU had a slight edge in rebounding, 38-35.

The Tigers were led by Marcus Thornton with 21 points. LSU star Tasmin Mitchell was in early foul trouble and played only 28 minutes. All 10 of his points came in the second half.

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