Basketball Provides Excitement, Too

A nearly full house at Coleman Coliseum Saturday night was buzzing about football, specifically Alabama tailback Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy. But the Crimson Tide men's basketball team gave the Bama faithful something to be excited about, too.



Alabama, rebuilding under first year Coach Anthony Grant, played host to undefeated and fifth-ranked Purdue with expectations among the Tide followers much lower than they were for Ingram to take home the first Heisman Trophy in Alabama football history. Grant's expectation is that his Crimson Tide will play hard, and the effort was definitely there against the Boilermakers.

Unfortunately, Purdue was playing just as hard as Alabama, and the Boilermakers have more talent. As a result, Purdue came from behind in the final five minutes and left with a 73-65 win over Bama and avoid a major upset.

The loss dropped Bama's record to 6-3. Purdue improved to 9-0.

Alabama continues its home-stand Wednesday, hosting Samford at 7 p.m. CST.

Things didn't start well or end well for the Crimson Tide. But in the middle, it was very good for Alabama basketball. There were just two lead changes in the game -- Bama taking the lead at 15-13 and Purdue re-taking it at 65-64.

Purdue took an early 9-1 lead against Bama. But down 13-9, Alabama used a ball-hawking defense and good ball movement to run off 15 consecutive points. Alabama got the lead out to as many as 11 points in the first half and had a 37-28 lead at halftime.

A key player for the Tide in the first half was "the other post player." While Purdue concentrated on stopping Bama star JaMychal Green, Justin Knox came off the bench and scored 12 points in 13 minutes of play.

Bama built as much as a 16-point lead in the second half, but when Tide shooting went cold and the Boilermakers had success against an Alabama zone defense, the lead dwindled to six at 55-49 with 10 minutes to play. Purdue had good success on the offensive backboards for second chance points in the comeback. Meanwhile, Purdue rebounders were limiting Bama to one shot on most trips.

Senario Hillman fouled out with 7:51 and Chris Kramer hit a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 60-55. Moments later center JaJuan Johnson hit a three-pointer to pull the Boilermakers to within a basket.

At 5:14 Purdue tied the game, 64-64, on a three-pointer by Robbie Hummell. With 4:30 to play, Torrance fouled D.J. Byrd shooting a three-pointer. Byrd made just one, but the Boilermakers had the lead at 65-64 and wouldn't give it up. Purdue followed that up with two steals for layups and a 69-64 lead with two and a half minutes to play.

Alabama made only two field goals in the last 11 minutes of the game.

Purdue outshot the Tide by hitting 25-54 (46.3 per cent) to Bama's 24-60 (40 per cent). The Boilermakers were good on 6-19 three-pointers (31.6 per cent), Bama 3-14 (21.4 per cent). The visitors made 17-21 free throws, Alabama 14-21.

Purdue had a 39-31 advantage in rebounds.

Alabama was led by Mikhail Torrance, who had 18 points, but only five in the second half; JaMychal Green, who scored 11 of his 16 in the second half; and Justin Knox, who had only two points in the second half for a total of 14. Green had eight rebounds.

Purdue was led in scoring by Hummell with 23 points and nine rebounds, E'Twaun Moore with 15 points, Chris Kramer with 14 points, and JuJuan Johnson with 10 points and nine rebounds.

Grant said, "You have to give Purdue credit. There is a reason they are considered one of the best teams in the country. Adversity hit them and they did a great job of fighting through for 40 minutes. I thought the difference in the game was in the second half (Chris) Kramer on the defensive end and (JaJuan) Johnson.

"We didn't play the way we need to play for 40 minutes. We need to evaluate and take to heart what we want to be as a basketball team.

"I thought the difference in the game was their defensive intensity. It always comes down to defense and rebounding.

"I thought we did a very good job until the last 12 minutes or so. They made some shots and got their defense set and we weren't able to get good looks."

Grant was disappointed. "I thought it was a winnable game," he said.

Torrance said, "They picked up the intensity and we didn't. They didn't get rattled. We didn't execute like we need to at the end. As the point guard, I take responsibility for that."

TIDE NOTES: Among those in attendance for the game were two of the finest head coaches in the histories of the two schools. Gene Keady, head coach at Purdue from 1981 through 2005, was with former Alabama Coach C.M. Newton (1969-80 at Bama). Keady serves with Newton on the NIT Selection Committee.

Purdue's presence was felt among the large crowd. Some 500 Boilermakers fans were with their team in Tuscaloosa. Many of those in attendance were Purdue alumni living in the South.

Late in the game, Alabama's crowd (12,477) was diminished somewhat, and not because the Tide faithful gave up. One of the officials had University police eject a handful of Tide fans in the new student standing section on the East end of the court, presumably for something they said.

At halftime, Alabama fans were treated to a Jumbotron replay of the Heisman Trophy announcement and Mark Ingram's response at the New York Athletic Club.

Among some two dozen professional scouts in attendance for the Alabama-Purdue game was David Hobbs, head coach of the Crimson Tide from 1992 through 1998. Hobbs, who now lives in Birmingham after a stint as an assistant coach at Kentucky, is a scout for the Charlotte Hornets.

Scouting for the New York Knicks was Greg Polinsky, a former Crimson Tide assistant coach.

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