TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -The Alabama men’s basketball team defeated Tennessee, 68-65, Saturday afternoon in the Crimson Tide’s Southeastern Conference home opener in Coleman Coliseum. With the victory, UA improves to 9-6 on the year, while moving to 1-1 in SEC play.
“I think in the second half the intensity we came out with and the passion that we showed is how we need to play the rest of the way,” UA Head Coach Anthony Grant said. “That’s the identity we need to have. That’s the way we need to approach the rest of the season and that was my message to the team after the game. I was frustrated and disappointed about the way we closed the half with the mental mistakes and the inability to finish and the breakdowns that we had, but we played the second half with a passion.”
Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey and junior guard Trevor Releford led the Crimson Tide with 15 points. All of Releford’s points came after intermission, as he connected on 5-of-7 field goals in the second half. Lacey also added four rebounds and two assists.
The contest featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes in the back-and-forth affair. Trailing 55-52 with 4:53 remaining, the UA defense created some offense, as the Tide went on a 10-0 spurt to take a 62-55 lead. In the final five minutes of the game, Alabama had four steals, went 8-of-8 from the foul line and outscored the Volunteers 16-10 to clinch the victory.
Tennessee had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer, but Trae Golden’s three-pointer was off the mark.
Tennessee outrebounded Alabama, 40-25, which included 16 offensive rebounds. However, Alabama countered that with 16 forced turnovers compared to just seven to the Tide. Alabama made up for their poor shooting in the first half (26.7 percent) by shooting 62.5% (15-of-24) in the second half.
“We didn’t play a perfect game, we made mistakes, but we showed heart and passion for the way we need to play,” Grant said. “I told them I was very proud of that and happy to get the win along with it.”
Senior guard Andrew Steele came off the bench for the Tide and added 11 points to go along with a season-high four steals. In fact, the senior from Birmingham, Ala., had six points, three steals and an assist in the final five minutes of the contest.
Sophomore guard Levi Randolph had 12 points to add to his team high six rebounds.
Alabama plays again Wednesday, January 16th, against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT and will be televised by CSS.
Courtesy: UA Media Relations