March 11, 2010
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The University of Alabama men’s basketball team overcame an 18-point second-half deficit to defeat South Carolina, 68-63, in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena.
After falling behind 54-36 with 11:40 to play, the Crimson Tide (17-14, 6-10 SEC) outscored the Gamecocks (15-16, 6-10) 32-9 the rest of the way to seal its biggest come-from-behind victory of the season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys, just the fight that they showed tonight,” UA head coach Anthony Grant said. “Our guys showed great toughness even when things were going bad, to stay together and fight and do the things that really we worked on in terms of building all year.”
Alabama took the lead, 60-59, with 2:04 remaining – its first lead since leading 12-9 – on a Tony Mitchell layup following a five-second violation by South Carolina. After a defensive stop, senior guard Mikhail Torrance drove to the hoop and gave the Tide a three-point lead with 1:40 remaining.
South Carolina guard Ramon Galloway then connected on a three pointer to tie the game at 62, but Torrance responded with another clutch jumper to give Alabama the final lead of the game. The SEC’s leading scorer, Devan Downey, then stepped to the line with 18 seconds remaining and a chance to tie the game, but missed the first of his two free throw attempts.
After Downey hit the second shot from the line Mitchell found JaMychal Green wide open under the basket to give Alabama a three-point lead. Following a steal by Mitchell, the All-SEC freshman hit two free throws to ice the game and give Alabama its third straight win over an SEC opponent for the first time of the season.
As it has been all year, the Tide’s defense was the difference maker in the game. After shooting 41.7 percent (15-of-36) from the field in the first half, Alabama limited South Carolina to just 29.6 percent (8-of-27) shooting in the second half. Alabama shot 30 percent from the field in the first half, but came alive in the second frame, connecting on 50 percent (13-of-26) of its field goals.
“We knew the second half was going to come down to our style of play,” Torrance said. “Their shots were coming up short, and that’s when I knew we had them and just to continue to execute down the stretch."
Torrance paced the Tide with 17 points, while junior forward Justin Knox scored 16 points, only one shy of his career high that came against South Carolina eight days ago, and grabbed seven rebounds. Mitchell finished with eight points and eight boards.
Downey paced South Carolina and led all scorers with 21 points.
Alabama moves on to the quarterfinals to face Kentucky, the Eastern Division's No. 1 seed, Friday at noon.