Tide Defense Keys Win Over LSU

Nick Jacobs

Tuscaloosa dentists are missing a huge money-making opportunity. If they'd open up on nights and weekends when Alabama plays basketball, it's likely many Crimson Tide fans would opt for a root canal over watching this Bama team play offense. Nevertheless, those13,511 who showed up Saturday night to watch saw the Crimson Tide rebound from Wednesday's horror show at Auburn and hold on to defeat LSU.



In a game in which Alabama led almost all the way, the Crimson Tide was leading LSU but by a single point with two minutes to play. Although Bama missed some late free throw opportunities, Alabama hung on to take a 60-57 win over the Tigers in Coleman Coliseum Saturday night.

Just three days after Bama suffered a humiliating 49-37 loss at Auburn, the Tide improved its record to 15-8 overall and 7-3 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU fell to 13-8 overall and 4-6 in the league.

Alabama goes on the road Tuesday to play Georgia. The Tide returns to Tuscaloosa next Saturday against South Carolina.

Sophomore inside player Nick Jacobs led four Bama players in double figures scoring. Jacobs, who was uncharacteristically good on free throws with 7-8 (he came into the game shooting under 50 per cent on foul throws). He was also 4-7 from the field and had five rebounds and three blocked shots.

Trevor Releford had 12 points and Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper 10 each.

LSU was led by Johnny O'Bryant III with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Shavon Coleman had 11 points for the Tigers.

Neither team shot well, Bama 19-54 (35.2 per cent) and LSU 21-56 (37.5 per cent) from the field. The Tide hit only 2-18 on three-point tries (11.1 per cent) while LSU was 4-15 (26.7 per cent). Although there were critical missed free throws late, Alabama won the game at the foul line with 20-33 compared to 11-14 for LSU.

Alabama won the rebounding battle 43-36 with Moussa Gueye pulling down seven and Cooper six.

Alabama had a season-best nine blocked shots, the Tigers none, and the Crimson Tide big men, Gueye (who blocked four shots) and Jacobs also altering a number of LSU shots.

LSU had a slight edge on scoring in the paint, 28-26, but the Tide had 14 second chance points to 7 for the Tigers.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said he was pleased with "the effort from start to finish. I thought the defense won it for us, but our offensive effort never wavered, even though the shots didn't always fall."

Things looked good for Alabama when Trevor Releford, one of the nation's best free throw shooters, stepped to the foul line with 1:11 to play and Bama nursing a 56-53 lead. Releford missed them both.

The opportunity had been set up when LSU threw the ball away on an inbounds and it was grabbed immediately. Alabama had managed its three-point lead on the strength of a pair of free throws by Trevor Lacey – moments after he had missed the front end of a one-and-one, only to have Nick Jacobs get the rebound for Bama.

With a three-point lead, Bama dodged an Andre Stringer three-point try for the Tigers. The ball went down into the basket, then popped back out. Jacobs made a pair of key free throws for a 58-53 lead.

Rodney Cooper also missed a pair of free throws in the final seconds, but Andrew Steele and Randolph each made 1-2 to help seal the win. Down 60-57 the Tigers shot an air ball three in the final 10 seconds, then failed on a desperation shot from behind the half court line as time expired.

LSU had scored the first two baskets of the second half to pull to within two points at 27-25, but the Tide upped the lead to 11 points at 45-34 with under 10 minutes to play on a fantastic alley-oop, Trevor Releford to Levi Randolph for a one-handed catch and slam.

LSU had cut the lead to five points, 50-45, when Nick Jacobs made a one-plus-one pair and followed that up with a nice reverse layup on an assist from Andrew Steele. But the Tigers answered with a three-pointer and a layup to cut it to 54-50 with under four minutes to play.

Alabama had a 27-21 halftime lead on the strength of out-scoring the Tigers 11-6 in the final six minutes of the first period. Bama had two shot-clock beaters in the stretch – a putback of an airball by Rodney Cooper and a drive and short jumpers by Andrew Steele.

Bama had taken the lead for good in the first half at 16-15 for on a nice drive and left-handed layup by Trevor Lacey.

Bama held LSU to only 8-26 shooting in the first half, in part because the Tigers missed some open shots and in part because close in shots were blocked (two each by Moussa Gueye and Nick Jacobs) or altered. Bama's wasn't tearing it up, 10-28 and only 2-10 on three-pointers.

Before Alabama took the lead for good, the game had been tied five times and there had been seven lead changes. Bama had as much as a seven-point lead on two occasions. LSU's biggest lead had been 3-0 when the Tigers opened the game with a three-pointer.

TIDE NOTES: LSU Coach Johnny Jones was an Alabama assistant coach under Mark Gottfried in 200-01. The director of basketball operations for the Tigrs is another former Gottfried assistant, Tom Kelsey.

Alabama started what has become its normal lineup of center Moussa Gueye surrounded by guards Trevor Relevord, Trevord Lacey, Rodney Cooper, and Levi Randolph.

It wasn't a record probably, but back-up guard Retin Obasohan went into the game at 16:42 and by 16:22 – 20 seconds later – had two fouls.

Alabama improved its all-time record against LSU to 102-67. The Tide has won six of the last seven meetings.

Alabama and LSU will meet again in two weeks, on Feb. 23 in Baton Rouge.

Alabama has now held 15 of its 23 opponents and seven straight SEC foes to 60 or fewer points.

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