Road win keeps Tide alive

The hearse is still cranked, but the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team is not dead yet. Bama, which has been the most disappointing team in the Southeastern Conference this year, went to Knoxville Saturday to take on the most surprising SEC team, Tennessee, and Alabama upset the Volunteers, 76-71.

Alabama improved its record to 15-8 and its SEC mark to 5-7 with Bama's first road victory of the season, indeed the first in a year. The Tide has four games remaining, two at home and two on the road. Conventional wisdom has it that Bama needs to win three of its last four games to earn a berth in this year's NCAA Tournament, but the win over the Vols could prove important in that quest.

The situation does not get easier for Alabama. The Crimson Tide goes on the road to take on the SEC Western Division-leading Mississippi State Bulldogs at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday. Alabama defeated Mississippi State, 68-62, in Tuscaloosa earlier this season.

Although Alabama's offense shut down in the final minutes, a putback by Erwin Dudley and a handful of free throws enabled the Tide to hold off a furious Tennessee rally.

Alabama never trailed in the game. The Tide held a 39-29 lead at halftime and opened up as much as an 18-point lead at 56-38 with just over 13 minutes to play. The Vols made a handful of uncontested three-point shots to stay in the game, drawing within three points in the final half minute.

It was Alabama's unusually good shooting that fueled the victory over the Vols. Bama hit 50 per cent from the field and 56 per cent on three-point shots. Bama held the Vols to 43 per cent field goal shooting. Bama came into the game as the SEC's worst shooting three-point team but was good on nine of 16 from behind the arc.

Dudley led four Alabama players in double figures scoring with 18 points. Mo Williams had 17, Kennedy Winston 15, and Antoine Pettway 11. Pettway, usually the smallest player on the court in any game, had six rebounds. Terrance Meade, who has not had a good season and recently lost his starting job, came off the bench to score eight points.

Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I'm really proud of them. It was a great win. Our guys have practiced hard believing they can win. We're going to be positive and get ourselves prepared."

Gottfried added, "We had a couple of stretches where we looked like the kind of team I've been wanting to see. I think Kennedy Winston is a big reason for that."

Winston, a true freshman, was playing in his 12th game after having had to sit out the first 11 games of the season. In addition to his scoring, Winston added eight rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots and played 39 of the 40 minutes.

Dudley didn't get his double-double -- he has 41 in his Alabama record 123 starts -- but he did have seven rebounds. Alabama won the rebounding battle, 36-31.

The Tide head coach said, "I thought out defense was pretty good. We've had games where we played good defense but didn't shoot well. Today we did both."


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