Sometimes Yale has a good basketball team. That is not the case this year. Nevertheless, Alabama had to hit seven of 10 free throw attempts in the last 98 seconds to hang on for a three-point victory against the Bulldogs of the Ivy League Sunday evening. The Crimson Tide improved to 8-3 with a 66-63 win at Coleman Coliseum before an announced crowd of 8,812.
Alabama seemingly had the game in hand, up by 18 points with to 15:45 to go, but, as has been the case so many times in the last two years, the Crimson Tide let the visitors back in the game. “Out-athleting” Yale didn’t work, so Bama had to nail key free throws to survive.
Had Ron Steele, Senario Hillman and Alonzo Gee not combined to hit 5-of-6 at the stripe in the final 11.7 seconds, the results could have been disastrous. Gee led the Tide with 20 points, Hillman finished with 18 points, and Steele added 16, including a pair of crucial three-pointers to hold off Yale runs.
Crimson Tide Coach Mark Gottfried said, “I think you’ve got to give Coach Jones and Yale’s players credit. I thought they hung in there. We did some things well at certain times, but we turned the ball over too many times tonight. That was really what caused us to give up our lead.
“Every situation is a learning experience. Our players did a good job (late) of understanding the score. We’re happy with the win, and we’re going to keep working to get better.”
“They did a good job defensively, taking us out of what we wanted to do,” Steele said. “You’ve got to give then credit. They gave us a lot of problems.”
Steele added seven boards and six assists to his box-score totals, but was charged with five turnovers. Yamene Coleman tallied only two points in 27 minutes but blocked six Bulldog shots to go with five boards and three steals. Hillman also had a trio of thefts.
“My teammates are getting me better shots, and open shots,” said Gee. “We’re running the offense, and playing together. That’s it.”
Sunday marked the eighth straight game Gee has scored in double digits, and the seventh straight contest he has led the Tide in scoring.
Yale’s leading scorer on the season, junior Alex Zampier, missed a pair of crucial free throws in the final minute, also aiding the Bama cause. Zampier scored eight points, but did not have a field goal and did not get in the scorebook for the first 38:39 of the contest.
“We changed defenses up a little bit, and that allowed us to get some offense,” said Yale Coach James Jones. “They’re better than (Zampier). They knew he was our leading scorer, and they were ready for him.”
Yale (2-7) was led by Ross Morin’s 20 points, while Travis Pinick chipped in 17.
Bama won the battle of the boards, but only by a 42-41 margin. The Tide’s Justin Knox did not score, but pulled down eight boards, while Gee added 10 rebounds for his ninth double-double of his senior year.
“A lot of (the turnovers) were just lack of focus,” Steele said. “We didn’t get out and run enough, as much as we wanted to, because they made shots.”
Up by three with less than three seconds left, the Tide chose to foul. Zampier intended to make the front end of a one-and-one and miss the second intentionally, but he missed the first one. He also missed the second.
For once, the Crimson Tide finished a first half with flair, and its biggest lead of the first 20 minutes came when Gee caught an alley-oop from Hillman and slammed it home just before time expired. Gee had three dunks and 15 of his 20 points before intermission, as the Tide took a 36-25 advantage to the dressing room.
Freshman JaMychal Green did a better job staying out of foul trouble, but was able to play only 20 minutes after sustaining a cut over his left eye midway through the second half.. Green scored 10 points and pulled down nine boards, falling just shy of his first collegiate double-double. He added four stitches to close his cut.
Bama will host Quincy out of Illinois at 7 p.m. CST Tuesday.
“It’s a quick turnaround, and we’ve just got to get ready to play,” Gottfried said.