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Tide comes back to trip TAMU

Two SEC teams that run basically the same offense squared off at Coleman Coliseum Saturday. Each believes in working the ball around for the first 30 seconds of the shot clock, then taking whatever shot is available, be it good or bad. Alabama won its third straight game with a 50-49 triumph, before an announced crowd of 13,741. Bama rallied from a 14-point first half deficit. Sophomore guard Trevor Lacey made the winning hoop in the waning seconds, and Trevor Releford iced the game with a key steal with under a second left.

“I thought it was a great character win today. The goal coming out of the half was to chip away at (the lead),” said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. “Our guys stayed the course, and thankfully, we made enough plays down the stretch to come out victorious.”

Said Lacey, “Coach drew up a play for me to come off a double screen. I was able to get separation.  They switched, and I was able to take the big man off the dribble. I felt good about the shot.” Lacey also had a game-high five assists.

Releford came off the bench to lead Bama with 15 points (all in the second half), and Lacey added 14 and six rebounds. Post man Nick Jacobs scored eight and grabbed four boards. The Aggies were led by Elston Turner’s 13 points. The Tide bench outscored the Aggies’ 26-6.

“Hard-fought game. I thought Trevor Releford really did a good job of taking the game over in the second half,” said Aggies coach Billy Kennedy. “Give Alabama credit. They found a way to win.” Alabama (11-6, 3-1 SEC) managed but three points in the first 10:13 went 9:48 without a point, and dug a 15-3 hole for itself with a flurry of missed shots and turnovers. It took the Tide 16:08 to reach double digits, when Devonta Pollard hit two foul shots to make it 22-11, Aggies. The teams went to the locker room with A&M (12-5, 1-3) leading 26-15. The Aggies outshot the Tide 50-28 per cent in the first 20 minutes. Bama committed ten turnovers leading to 13 TAMU points. Then came a 15-2 Tide run to open the second stanza, a half in which the Tide outshot the visitors 57-46 per cent over the final 20 minutes. “We tried to pressure them 94 feet and get them out of their comfort zone,” Lacey said.

Lacey began the second half the same as he did the first, with a 3-pointer. A Moussa Gueye block, a Releford lay-in and a Rodney Cooper dunk drew the Tide within four points and brought the crowd to its feet while forcing a Kennedy time out. Another Lacey trey and a trapping defense meant another TAMU timeout, and by then the Tide only trailed by one with 16:52 left.

A Rodney Cooper bomb gave the Tide but its second lead, and the teams went to the 15:57 media time out with Bama leading, 30-28. The Aggies then rallied to lead 36-34 with 9:37 left. Releford’s trey broke a drought and drew the Tide within two with just over seven minutes left.

Releford scored from in close twice in a row, and the Tide took time with the score knotted at 43 with 3:15 to go. The junior then stole the ball, got fouled, and hit a pair for a two-point lead. Turner hit a jumper with an expiring shot clock, and Lacey missed a runner. Turner missed a runner of his own, and the Tide turned it over with 91 seconds left. Alex Caruso hit a driving lay-up to put the Aggies up, and Grant took time with a minute left to set up a play.

Andrew Steele drove for his first two points of the game, got fouled, and with 42.4 left, made a free throw for the lead. Harris hit a runner to give TAMU the lead with 16 seconds left, and Grant took his final time out.

Bama in-bounded with 14.7 left, Lacey pulled up for a jumper for two, and after a steal by Releford, the junior was fouled with four tenths of a second left. His miss meant nothing, as all the Aggies could do was heave the ball after the buzzer sounded.

“We got bumped, but you’re not going to get the call in that situation,” said Kennedy. “It just didn’t bounce our way.”

Alabama hosts Kentucky Tuesday at 8 p.m. CT. ESPN will televise.

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