No Questions About Tide Effort

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Looking back, where was that free throw shooting last Tuesday against Auburn? Looking ahead, can Bama avenge its loss to Vanderbilt in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament? And, if so, can the Crimson Tide beat Tennessee twice within a week? What no one is questioning is the effort of a Bama team that played well down the stretch.

One thing at a time, and first up should be a day for Alabama Interim Basketball Coach Philip Pearson and his Crimson Tide players to enjoy the latest success. That would be reliving the vision of junior backup point guard Anthony Brock's long bank shot (whether he called "Backboard!" is not a question for consideration) that beat Tennessee, 70-67, Sunday.

Brock's 30-foot shot in the final regular season game of SEC play completed a wacky few minutes of competition at the end of the game. The win was Bama's fourth in its last five games.

The one loss in that stretch was in Coleman Coliseum last Tuesday when Bama lost by four points in a game in which Tide players missed 14 free throws. Against the Vols, Bama was great at the foul line, making 16-19.

Sunday's win moved Bama up to the SEC Western Division fourth seed, meaning Alabama will meet SEC East fifth seed Vanderbilt at 6:30 p.m. CDT Thursday in the first round of the SEC Tournament in Tampa. If Bama wins, the Tide will be re-matched against Tennessee, the number one seed from the East, at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Alabama was a 79-74 loser to Vanderbilt in Nashville on February 5.

With the score tied 67-67 Sunday, the Tide defense came up with a crucial stop to get the ball back with four seconds left. Alabama took a time-out and on the subsequent play got the ball into Brock's hands. He then dribbled through traffic, pulled up and knocked down the game-winner as the buzzer sounded.

The game was tight down the stretch with five ties and six lead changes in the final 10:18 of action. Tennessee climbed back into the game with an 11-0 run early in the second half after trailing by 10 points at the break. That spurt cut the lead to 43-42 and from that point neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way.

Alabama's starting backcourt tandem, sophomore Senario Hillman and junior Mikhail Torrance, each scored in double figures with 16 and 12 points respectively. Hillman made 3-6 shots from beyond the three-point arc. His 16 points led all scorers.

Brock's buzzer-beater gave him 11 points to round out the Tide players in double figures. The junior-college transfer was a perfect 3-3 from the field with all of his shots coming from three-point range. Freshman JaMychal Green put together a solid effort, narrowly missing a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds to go with three blocked shots.

Alabama shot 44 per cent for the game and 40 per cent (6-15) from behind the arc while holding Tennessee, the SEC's most accurate team, to 39 per cent from the field and 28 per cent (7-25) from three-point range. The biggest discrepancy came at the foul line where the Crimson Tide went 16-19 compared to 10-22 for the Volunteers.

Brock and freshman Andrew Steele gave Alabama a spark off the bench in the first half, helping the Tide build a 39-29 lead at the break. The two combined for 11 straight Alabama points over a four-minute period midway through the half that extended the Crimson Tide lead to nine points at 27-18.

Alabama played stifling defense in the first frame, especially from long range where the Volunteers shot 9 per cent (1-11) on three-pointers. The Tide defense also forced eight turnovers that led to 15 points.

Tennessee forwards Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism each posted double-doubles for the Volunteers. Chism scored a team-high 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Smith had 11 points and 11 boards.

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