Free throws give Alabama late win over LSU

Terrance Meade hit the game-tying shot with 30 seconds to play and the game-winning free throws with 1.3 seconds remaining to give No. 18 Alabama a 74-72 win over LSU in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools Saturday night at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

After scoring their last field goal with 4:05 to play to go ahead by eight points, the Tigers allowed the Crimson Tide to mount a comeback and tie the game on Meade's jumper from the top of the key. LSU worked for the last shot in the closing moments of the game, but Collis Temple lost control of a finger-roll going down the lane with 6.6 on the clock.

Then on the Alabama end of the court, Temple fouled Meade as the Alabama guard tried heaving a desperation shot from behind the arc. Officials awarded Meade three free throws and he sank the first and third to put Alabama ahead. Jermaine Williams made the inbounds pass for LSU to Charlie Thompson just past half-court, but Thompson's long shot at the buzzer bounced off the backboard.

"Our effort was better than Alabama's. Our execution was better," said LSU head coach John Brady. "It was only a couple of mistakes in the last minute that cost us the game. I take the blame for not communicate well enough to the team what to do, and it's going to eat at me for a while."

The loss was LSU's third straight to Alabama and dropped the Tigers' record to 10-4. Alabama, picked in the pre-season to win the SEC West division, improved to 13-2 on the season.

Despite getting into foul trouble in the early stages of the game, LSU was able to build and sustain a lead for most of the night. Alabama, an 11 1/2–point favorite the morning of the game, held a lead for just under four minutes in the first half and trailed LSU until the final minute of the game. The biggest lead for the Crimson Tide was six while LSU went ahead by eight twice on two occasions in the second half. Antonio Hudson's three-pointer with 4:05 remaining put LSU ahead 72-64, but it would be the last field goal for the Tigers in the game.

Ronald Dupree led LSU with 20 points and 10 rebounds despite playing with four fouls for the last five minutes. With referees quick to call hand checks and the Tigers trying to play physical against a bigger Crimson Tide post presence, Alabama was sent to the free throw line often and made the most of its chances, hitting 20-of-29.

Free throws were how Alabama's leading scorer did the majority of his damage. The Tigers conceded the outside to 6-foot-9 wingman Rod Grizzard and challenged him when he attacked the basket. The first half of the strategy worked as Grizzard made just 1-of-6 attempts on three-pointers, but his 10-of-12 performance on free throws allowed him to post a team-high 19 points.

LSU enjoyed a 38-32 lead at halftime thanks to 58 percent shooting in the first half and held Alabama's main two post players, Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker, to a combined six points.

The Tigers were leading 22-19 with at the 7:18 mark when the Crimson Tide went on a 9-0 run. A pair of Grizzard free throws ended the run that LSU answered with its 12 unanswered points of its own. During the Tiger run, Hudson provided back-to-back baskets with a running four-footer from the baseline and a three-pointer as the shot expired. The freshman from Grambling tied a career high by hitting all four of his shots behind the arc and finished with 16 points.

Dupree put LSU back in front, 29-28, with a base line jumper, and a lay-up from Temple at the 2:06 mark was counted as a basket when Grizzard was called for goal tending. Torris Bright capped the Tigers' run with a three-pointer from the left wing. He finished the game with 16 points.

Alabama cut LSU's lead down to three in the early portion of the second half by getting the ball down to Walker and Dudley. Walker provided the Tide's first four points of the half, and Dudley made the score 45-42 with a put back basket. Meade pulled Alabama within a point, 47-46, on a three-pointer with 14:40 remaining.

But after Grizzard missed from long range on the next two trips down the court, the Tigers slowly built their lead over the next five minutes. Hudson connected on a three-pointer off an inbound pass – the third time the Tigers scored on the play – to give LSU a 61-53 lead with 9:16 to play.

Following Hudson's final three-pointer, the Crimson Tide went into a 2-2-1 full-court trapping defense that altered LSU's shot selection. The Tigers also continued to put Alabama on the free throw line, allowing the Tide to narrow the margin with the clock stopped. Grizzard and Dudley each made a pair of free throws to cut the score to 72-68, and Antoine Pettway stepped in front of an errant Temple pass and took the ball in for an easy basket to pull Alabama within two.

The only scoring for LSU down the stretch came when Dupree and Bright each went 1-for-2 on their trips to the line. In between, Dudley added a shot in the lane – making the score 74-72 with 1:42 to go.

Alabama took possession of the ball after Bright missed his second free throw but failed to take the lead when Grizzard missed a three-pointer. On the LSU end of the court, Bright looked like he was setting up an easy basket, but Dupree loss the handle on the ball and could only deflect it out of bounds with 1:07 remaining.

After a 30-second timeout, Alabama ran its offense and got the ball in the hands of Meade, who drained his three with 6 seconds showing on the shot clock. The game clock read 30.4 when LSU called its own timeout to set up a potential go-ahead play.

After circulating the ball around the perimeter, it ended up in Temple's hands at the key. He drove the lane and lost control of a scoop shot with six seconds left, allowing Alabama a chance to win.

"We did what was necessary to win and then don't make plays to win the game," said Brady. "We were up two and were going to sit back and not foul them (Alabama). If they made the basket, we were going to try to get the last shot or win it at the foul line. We made a poor decision and lost the ball going down the lane."

A pass went quickly down court to Meade, who got hacked by Temple while trying to push a shot toward the goal with one hand. Alabama used a timeout after Meade made the first of his three free throws. After missing the second, Meade had the choice of missing the third in order to get the clock running or making the basket to force the Tigers to take out the ball under its goal. He made the final attempt and the Tigers' last shot missed at the buzzer.

Alabama had five players score in double figures. Joining Grizzard were Dudley (15), Meade (12), Mo Williams (11) and Travis Stinnett (10). The Crimson Tide out-rebounded LSU, 32-28, and shot 47 percent (25-of-53) for the game. LSU had 14 assists against 13 turnovers, while Alabama totaled 11 assists against 8 turnovers.

The Tigers have a week off before their next SEC contest, their league home opener against Arkansas on Sunday, Jan. 13.

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