Vols' Comeback Takes Tide Down

Maybe a mad scientist ruined the formula. The way it had worked in recent basketball games is that Alabama fell way behind in the first half, then fought back to win in the second half. On Saturday in Knoxville, it was Tennessee that fought back from a big deficit and got a win over Bama.

Alabama's four-game winning streak came to a halt at the hands of Tennessee as the Vols took a slightly controversial 54-53 win.

The Crimson Tide's last shot opportunities are well known as ineffectual, but they ordinarily come at the end of the first half. Bama also is known as slow to get its offense going. So when the Tide had a last chance with the ball with only 11.4 seconds to play, there were a lot of things working against Bama.

Sure enough, Alabama was slow and didn't get a shot off. Trevor Lacey was making something of an effort and seemed to be fouled, but there was no call and time ran out. Also a part of the controversy was an Alabama three-point shot in the first half that was ruled good for only two. That makes a difference in a one-point game.

That's not to say there weren't calls missed in Alabama's favor. SEC officials may be inept, but they are not corrupt.

Bama's troubles can be pinned on free throw shooting. The Tide made only 5-11. Additionally, Alabama was out-rebounded 37-22. Tennessee got 15 offensive rebounds. Bama had a slight edge in points from the field as the Tide was good on 21-45 field goals (46.7 per cent) and 6-14 on three-point tries (42.9 per cent). Tennessee made 21-50 from the field but only 2-10 on three-pointers. The Vols' scoring advantage came at the foul line, 10-16.

Alabama had 10 steals and 14 assists, but the Vols out-scored Alabama in the paint, 36-24, and in second chance points, 17-5. Bama had the advantage in points off turnovers, 14-6, and in fast break points, 9-0.

Alabama was led by Trevor Releford, who was good on 7-11 from the field, including 3-3 on threes, and had 18 points. He also had five steals, four assists, and no turnovers. Lacey had 11 points and Rodney Cooper 10. Lacey and Cooper led Bama in rebounding with only four each.

Jarnell Stokes had 15 points and an incredible 18 rebounds. Bama's two big men, Moussa Gueye and Nick Jacobs, had two rebounds each. Jordan McRae led the Vols with 17 points.

Alabama had as much as a 10-point lead in the first half and led most of the second half, but fouls, turnovers, and poor shooting allowed the Vols to use the formula Bama had used to run off four consecutive Southeastern Conference wins. In fact, the Tide's just-ended winning streak had begun two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa when Bama defeated Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, 68-65.

Alabama fell to 12-7 overall and 4-2 in SEC games. The Vols improved to 9-9 overall and 2-4 in the conference.

Alabama returns home to face Arkansas at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31.

Alabama has let its big lead dwindle throughout the second half and the game was tied at 50-50 when Lacey drained a three-pointer with just under two minutes to play.

Tennessee got an offensive rebound for a second chance and the Vols took the lead on a Jordan McRae runner. When Bama's Rodney Cooper missed the front end of a one-and-one and at the other end Trae Golden made both ends, the Vols had a 54-50 lead with 31 szeconds to play.

Trevor Releford made a long three-pointer with 18.5 seconds to play and then Golden missed the front end of a one-and-one to give Alabama a final chance. But you can't score if you don't shoot.

Releford, who did not score in the first half against Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, had 10 points at the half and keyed the Crimson Tide to a 25-19 lead at intermission. Bama had a 10-point lead at 25-15 before giving up two late field goals to the Vols.

Tennessee's only first half lead had been at 2-0. Releford erased that with the first of his two three-point baskets. Back-to-back Releford baskets in transition and then a Releford assist to Rodney Cooper for a jumper gave the Tide an eight-point advantage. Moussa Gueye's nice reverse layup put Bama up by 10. That field goal, though, with 5:10 to play was Bama's last of the first half.

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