Tide comes up short versus Utes

Alabama was reaffirmed as the nation's number one men's college basketball team in balloting conducted by the Associated Press Monday afternoon. Monday night the Crimson Tide had to prove its ranking in a difficult place, Salt Lake City, Utah, against the Utah Utes. Alabama wasn't up to the task, losing for the first time this year. Alabama had a particularly poor offensive game and lost, 51-49.

Alabama fell to 9-1. Bama returns to action at home Saturday hosting nationaly-ranked Xavier at 4 p.m. CST in Coleman Coliseum. The game will be regionally telecast by Fox Sports South.

The loss was Bama's first to Utah in four meetings. It was the first time Utah had ever hosted the nation's top-ranked team.

Alabama dug itself a big hole with miserable first half shooting. The Tide hit only one field goal in the first 11 minutes of the game. Additionally, two of Bama's biggest guns--­pre-season All-America forward Erwin Dudley and center Kenny Walker­--spent much of that first stanza on the bench with foul problems.

Although the Tide fell behind early, good defense helped Alabama fight to a 19-19 tie at halftime.

That good Alabama defense went South in the second half. It took the Utes just a few minutes to get 19 more points and Utah took a lead it would not relinquish. Additionally, while Alabama's shooting improved, the Tide was plagued by turnovers and untimely misses on open shots in the second half.

Alabama pulled to within two points on a couple of occasions in the final 10 minutes and had it to three points with three minutes to play. Although there were bleak moments, a three-point shot by Mo Williams pulled Bama to within a bucket at 48-46 with 1:26 to play. With 33 seconds to play Earnest Shelton had two free throw opportunities to tie the game, but he missed the first one. Less than 10 seconds later Utah made a pair of free throws and had a 50-47 lead. With 12 seconds to play Bama made a layup. With 10 seconds to play Utah was again shooting a one-and-one and made the first.

Alabama had two shots at a tie and missed both and the Tide was saddled with its first loss of the year.

Mo Williams had 15 points to lead Alabama. Earnest Shelton had 14 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Erwin Dudley was held to nine points and Kenny Walker to six.

While Alabama was not particularly efficient on offense, shooting 41 per cent, the Tide did well defensively, holding Utah to only 39 per cent shooting, including only 14 per cent on three-point shots. Alabama had a slight edge in rebounds, 32-30, but had four more turnovers, 13-9.

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried was able to find a positive. He said, "This was the most physical game we've played in my five years and our guys answered the challenge. If we play like that every night we're going to win a lot of games. I was proud of our guys. They fought and fought and fought."

Gottfried said, "I'm disappointed we lost, but this game isn't going to break us."


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