March 8, 2012
NEW ORLEANS -
The University of Alabama men's basketball team defeated South Carolina, 63-57, in a highly-contested game in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the New Orleans Arena Thursday.
Freshman guard Trevor Lacey led Alabama (21-10 9-7 SEC) with 15 points, including a perfect 6-of-6 showing from the free-throw line. Senior forward JaMychal Green contributed 12 points and seven rebounds. Freshman forward Nick Jacobs also scored a dozen points while sophomore guard Trevor Releford and freshman guard Levi Randolph chipped in nine points apiece.
"I'm very proud of our effort today," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "It was a great win for us. I felt like at the beginning of the game, our energy and effort was really up there. Our guys did a great job by locking in our defense in order to be successful today."
The Crimson Tide has now won eight of its last 11 games and goes to 4-0 in neutral site games this season after shooting 83% (24-of-29) from the free-throw line despite South Carolina going 8-of-24 (33%) beyond the arc.
Relying heavily on its inside game, the first 20 of Alabama's 21 points came from inside the paint, and its defensive pressure, the Tide went into halftime with a 37-26 advantage after out-rebounding the Gamecocks in the first half, 19-9.
The second half turned out to be a game of runs. South Carolina came out in the first five minutes of the second half and trimmed Alabama's 11-point halftime lead to just four, 42-38. In response, the Tide went on an 8-2 run over the next six and a half minutes to take a 50-42 advantage. South Carolina responded with a quick 9-1 run to tie things up at 51-all on a Brenton Williams three-pointer with 6:38 left in the game. Lacey finally put the game away with a crucial three-point basket which gave Alabama a 58-53 lead with just under a minute left to play.
"I give South Carolina a lot of credit," Grant said. "They came out in the second half, and played inspired. Our guys stayed together though. They kept their poise, played with heart and compassion, and got the win."
Damien Leonard and Williams led USC with 13 points each while Bruce Ellington logged in 11 points.
The Tide faces Florida in the tournament's second quarterfinal game Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. CST and the game will be televised on the SEC Network and broadcast on the radio affiliates of the Crimson Tide Sports Network.