The Crimson Tide slapped, pushed, fought and battered its way through the match up with South Carolina, but, when the dust had settled, it had the only thing it had shown up for: another much-needed win.
Alabama survived an ugly first half to pull away from the slumping Gamecocks and win 82-59 on Senior Night before a crowd of 10,316 at Coleman Coliseum. The win improves the Tide to a mere game below .500 in conference play at 7-8; Bama is now 17-9 overall. South Carolina falls to 5-10 in the SEC, 12-14 overall.
"I'm really happy for our seniors," Tide head coach Mark Gottfried said afterward. "It's an night they'll remember for the rest of their lives. We're playing some pretty good basketball now; we just need to keep on continuing to do that."
A pair of youngsters led the way for Bama on Senior Night.
Sophomore point guard Mo Williams led the way for the Tide, overcoming a rough first half to score 17 second-half points and finish with 22. "Right now, we can't look past anybody," Williams said. "We're just taking every game one at a time.
"We just have to win; it's all we can do."
Freshman swingman Kennedy Winston also had a big night, scoring 22 points of his own and dishing out six assists. "That was the biggest team we've faced all year," Winston said. "When they're that big, they're easier to beat up and down the court, easier to penetrate, easier to create open shots."
Senior forward Erwin Dudley had his customary double double, scoring 17 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. "It was pretty physical," Dudley said. "Not that physical, though. Every game in the SEC is physical; it was just a typical game for me, I guess.
"It was a total team effort. That is all you can ask for, especially on Senior Night."
Kenny Walker finished with only three points but pulled down ten rebounds.
Alabama dominated the boards, out rebounding Carolina 45-26 and scoring 13 second-chance points to the Gamecocks' four.
South Carolina head coach Dave Odom said that was the key to his team's loss. "We were totally dominated inside," he said. "We're just not tough enough right now. I think the story of the game was missed opportunities."
The game turned early in the second half.
With 15 minutes remaining in the game and the Tide clinging to a tenuous 40-36 lead, Alabama broke loose, outscoring the Gamecocks 21-5 over the next five minutes.
Winston scored seven points to key the run. Carolina would not come any closer than 16 points for the rest of the night.
The first half was as hard-hitting as any of Bama's football spring practices thus far, with Bama trading shots with the much bigger Gamecocks.
The Crimson Tide struggled shooting the basketball, falling behind early 6-1 after missing several point-blank lay-ups. But Alabama would outscore Carolina 29-21 the rest of the way, controlling much of the action. The Tide exploded for 52 second half points, shooting a blistering 69 percent from the floor.
"In the second half, I really liked our offense and how we moved the ball," Gottfried said. "We shot 69 percent in the second half and that was a result of being unselfish and moving the basketball and taking good shots."
Winston led Bama with ten points and four rebounds in the half. Dudley contributed six points and five boards.
Terrance Meade returned from in jury on Senior Night, stroking a pair of first-half three-pointers before cooling off.
Alabama shot only 11 of 32 (34 percent) from the floor in the first half, 4 of 14 (29 percent) from behind the three-point arc and led 30-27 at halftime.
South Carolina was led by Tony Kitchings 13 points, followed by Carlos Powell with 12 and Kerbrell Brown with 11.
The evening began with the honoring of Alabama's three seniors--Meade, Walker and Dudley--who played their final games in Coleman Coliseum.
Rather than be introduced singularly, the public address had the three seniors step out together and receive a rousing ovation from the Tuscaloosa crowd. With 1:22 remaining, the trio checked out of the game, exiting to yet another thunderous roar from what remained of the crowd.
"We love everything about the University of Alabama," Meade said afterwards. "And we're going to miss it."
Alabama returns to action this Saturday with a 1 p.m. date in Baton Rouge against the LSU Bayou Bengal Tigers.