Riley Has Super Senior Day Heroics

It seemed like the ultimate final misery for Alabama basketball fans in Coleman Coliseum Saturday. They would have to watch five more minutes of this 2007-08 Crimson Tide team. But unlike so much of this disappointing season, Bama got a magnificent performance from senior Mykal Riley and defeated the Vanderbilt, 78-73, in overtime.

Mykal Riley was nearly the goat for Alabama, but in the five-minute overtime period in his final performance inTuscaloosa, Riley poured in 13 points -- equal to the number he had in the first 40 minutes of play -- to power Bama to victory.

Riley had 13 points in regulation, but all he would have been remembered for had the Tide lost on Saturday was his foul with 21 seconds to play. Alabama led by three points and the Commodores' Andrew Ogilvy was going in for a layup. Riley fouled, the layup went in and Ogilvy's free throw tied the game.

A typical Alabama end play most of this year has resulted in the Tide getting either no shot or a bad shot and Bama got a bad one. A last ditch Vanderbilt try came up just short forcing the extra period. Alabama didn't start well with a pair of turnovers, but then Riley began to light it up. He hit a three-point shot to give Alabama the lead at 65-64 and followed with a baseline drive for a layup and a 67-64 lead. He then connected on back-to-back three-pointers to make ikt 73-66 with 1:29 to play. Riley, who also had three key rebounds in overtime, missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, his only blip in the extra five-minute period, then made a pair to make it 75-68 with 41 seconds to play.

Brandon Hollinger made three of four free throws around a long trey by Vandy's Shane Foster and the Tide conceded a layup at the end.

Riley, who was one of three senior basketball players honored Saturday (and the only one who played in the game for Bama), finished with 26 points on 8-16 field goals, 6-13 three-point shots, and 4-6 free throws. He also had 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 42 minutes of play.

"The difference in the game was what Riley was able to do in overtime," said Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings. He was fantastic. We tip our hat to him. It was a brilliant five-minute performance."

The win improved Alabama's record to 16-15. Bama finished Southeastern Conference play with a 5-11 record. Vanderbilt dropped to 25-6 overall and 10-6 in SEC play.

Alabama now goes to the SEC Tournament in Atlanta where play will begin Thursday. Auburn was playing at Arkansas later Saturday to determine Alabama's spot in the SEC Tournament. If Auburn lost, Bama would be scheduled to play at 6:30 p.m. CDT against Florida. If Auburn defeated Arkansas, Bama and Vandy would be rematched at 2:30 Thursday.

Riley, a native of Pine Bluff, Ark., whose parents were on hand for his final game in Coleman Coliseum, said, "This is my new number one memory [of his Alabama career]. I made a stupid play to let it go to overtime, then came back. It was the perfect ending, the perfect senior day."

Walk-on back-ups John Dill and Kyle Sellers were also honored as seniors completing their careers.

Alabama seemed to be in control until hitting a scoring drought early in the second half. The Tide had gone in front at 26-24 midway through the first half and built the lead to a 38-30 margin at halftime. Early in the second half Bama got it out to a 10-point lead. Vanderbilt trailed 42-32 with 17 minutes to play. With nine minutes to play the Commodores had gone up by four points at 48-44. With 1:45 to play Alabama had a five-point lead at 62-57, but the Commodores scored the final five points of the half to send the game to overtime.

Vandy actually had a chance to win in regulation when Ogilvy caught a length-of-court throw-in Ross Neltner and nearly got the hurried layup attempt to go.

Alabama got 16 points from Alonzo Gee and a double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds from Richard Hendrix, who seemed to be at less than full speed and acknowledged after the game that he was not 100 per cent physically.

Vanderbilt was led by Shane Foster with 21 points, Ogilvy with 17 (and 10 rebounds), and Neltner with 13.

Both teams scored 59 points from the field. Bama hit 25-60 field goals (41.7 per cent) and 9-22 three-point shots (40.9 per cent). Vandy hit 26-68 field goals (38.2 per cent) and 7-25 on treys (28 per cent). The Tide outscored the Commodores from the free throw line. Alabama made 19-26 (73.1 per cent) and Vandy 14-19 (73.7 per cent).

Alabama out-rebounded Vandy by 45-40.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried was in good spirits with the rare success of this team. "We're excited about going to Atlanta," he said. "It's a new season."

There has been speculation -- none close to verified or coming from sources close to Athletics Director Mal Moore -- that the SEC Tournament might be the only new season Gottfried sees as head coach of the Tide.

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