Nov. 20, 2009
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The University of Alabama basketball team knocked off Big East opponent Providence, 84-75, in an up-tempo, back-and-forth game at Coleman Coliseum Friday night. In a game that featured 16 lead changes, the Crimson Tide found a way to finish on top, coming up with big stops and timely baskets at crucial moments down the stretch.
"I'll tell you what, I couldn't be prouder of the effort our guys gave," head coach Anthony Grant said. "I think it's fitting that we were in a position where we had to defend to win the game, and down the stretch the last two minutes our guys stepped up to the challenge and did a great job and got stops and were able to pull it out."
After trailing by four points at halftime, Alabama began the second half with a 9-2 spurt capped by a Mikhail Torrance dunk to take a 42-39 lead. The Tide maintained that lead, albeit by the smallest of margins, until the 2:02 mark when Providence's Jamine Peterson made two free throws to put the Friars back on top 72-71. The Tide answered though and regained the lead for good on an Andrew Steele layup off a sideline inbounds play that put Alabama up 76-75.
Providence's next possession proved to be critical. The Friars' Marshon Brooks tried to take junior Senario Hillman one-on-one, but Hillman was able to poke the ball away, leading to a Torrance steal. Torrance then went the length of the court for the basket plus the foul to put the Tide up 79-75 with 0:44 seconds left. Hillman then put the exclamation point on the victory with a break-away jam with 0:19 left for the final bucket of the game.
"I wanted the ball," Torrance said. "I told Coach to look to me to make a big play. I really wanted to come out and do it for my teammates, and Coach gave me a lot of confidence. We came in and Coach Grant gave us a great game plan, and we just wanted to really prepare and come out here and execute that game plan."
Torrance finished the game with a team-high 26 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Both of the Crimson Tide's starting frontcourt players, sophomore JaMychal Green and junior Justin Knox finished with double-doubles. Green scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while Knox added 13 points and 10 boards.
"I thought (Knox) was huge," Grant said. "In the second half when JaMychal picked up his fourth foul, I think we may have had a four-point lead, a three-point lead, somewhere in that neighborhood, and they were making a run.
"We needed to be able to get some rebounds and convert on the other end. I thought Justin came in, and he was great from the free-throw line, he gave us some big rebounds down the stretch there. He was a very physical presence on the inside, and I'm really happy for him being able to come out and make the contribution he did tonight."
Torrance, Green and Knox shot a combined 25-for-28 from the foul line helping Alabama shoot 77.1 percent (27-for-35) from the charity stripe for the game.
Despite the fact that Providence used a full-court press for much of the game, the Tide protected the ball well with only eight turnovers. The Alabama defense forced 14 turnovers that led to 21 points.
After struggling shooting the ball in the first half, Alabama bounced back and shot 53.3 percent (16-for-30) after the break. For the game, the Tide shot 40.3 percent (27-for-67), while holding Providence to 36.8 percent shooting (25-for-68).
Providence held a 37-33 edge at halftime after a back-and-forth first frame that featured 11 lead changes. The Friars gained a little separation with a 7-0 run midway through the half to push the score to 19-13, but the Tide bounced back with a 12-2 run a few minutes later to reclaim the lead at 30-26. During the spurt, Torrance scored five points and dished out an assist. The senior guard finished the half with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists to lead the Tide.
Peterson finished with a game-high 27 points for Providence and also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds for an impressive double-double. Brookes scored 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting.
"I think that's growth, and that's something that we preach every day," Grant said. "We have to be able to move on to the next play, to stay in the present moment, and we're getting better at that. I thought our guys did a good job of that today."
The Crimson Tide's next contest comes on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 26, against Baylor in the Ole Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CST and the game will air on ESPN2.