Alabama to face Connecticut in first-ever trip to Elite EightThursday, March 25, 2004
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By Bob Baum, AP Sports Writer
PHOENIX (AP) -- Sit down Syracuse. Join top-seeded Stanford on the sidelines.
The Tide is on some kind of roll!
Alabama, a No. 8 seed, beat the defending national champions 80-71 in the Phoenix Regional semifinals on Thursday night, five days after stunning Stanford.
Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton put Alabama (20-12) ahead from the outside in the first half, then Chuck Davis got rough inside in the second and the Crimson Tide is in an NCAA regional final for the first time in the school's history.
Next up Saturday is a matchup against No. 2 seed Connecticut, a 73-53 winner over No. 6 seed Vanderbilt in Thursday's first game.
Shelton scored 22 points and Winston 19 for Alabama, but the difference maker was Davis, who scored 17 of his 19 in the second half as the Tide pulled away.
The Crimson Tide sank 11 of 12 free throws over the final 8:10 and were 19-of-23 at the line overall.
Gerry McNamara scored 20 of his 24 in the second half, but Hakim Warrick managed just four in the last 20 minutes after a 15-point first half.
Syracuse (23-8), a No. 5 seed, was out to prove it could get back to the Final Four without superstar Carmelo Anthony, who left for the NBA after helping coach Jim Boeheim earn his first national title.
But 'Bama served notice immediately that it was no pushover.
Alabama's 3-point barrage offset Syracuse's dominance inside through the first half, with the Crimson Tide up 38-36 at the break.
Alabama made 8-of-15 3s in the first half, with Winston and Shelton each going 4-for-6. Winston scored 15 and Shelton 13 in the first 20 minutes, while Antoine Pettway, in brand new shiny red shoes, had six points and six assists. Pettway finished with 10 points and nine assists.
Alabama Crimson Tide:
· Making its eighth all-time appearance in the Sweet 16, Alabama's victory over Syracuse advances to the Elite 8 for the first time in school history. The Crimson Tide were previously 0-7 when trying to advance to the Elite 8.
· Alabama shot 50% (26-for-52) from the field, marking the ninth time this season the Crimson Tide have shot 50% or better in a game... the season-high was a 54% (34-for-63) effort in a 87-86 win over Oregon (12/20)... Alabama also bettered their season three-point percentage (37.9%) by going 9-for-22 (40.9%) from behind the arc.
· The nine (9) three-pointers made tied an Alabama NCAA Tournament record... 'Bama also hit nine three-pointers against Stanford (1992), Wake Forest (1991) and North Carolina A&T (1987)... the 22 attempts are third most in the Crimson Tide NCAA record book.
· Junior guard Earnest Shelton (Memphis, Tenn.) led Alabama with 22 points on 5-for-11 shooting and had four three pointers... the four triples marked the eighth time this season he has had four or more three-pointers... it was the 11th time he has had 20 or more points... Shelton came into the game averaging 15.8 points per game... it was a postseason high for him and a career-high with five steals.
· Senior point guard Antoine Pettway tied a career high with nine assists, also recording nine against UT-Chattanooga on Dec. 16, 2003.
· Alabama gained its first ever win over Syracuse with tonight's victory... the Crimson Tide were 0-2 going into the game, losing in back-to-back years in 1996 (68-81 at Syracuse) and in 1997 (66-70 at Tuscaloosa).
· Alabama gained its 20th victory of the season, marking the third 20-victory season under sixth-year head coach Mark Gottfried.
· The Orangemen had its streak of eight consecutive NCAA Tournament victories snapped with tonight's loss to Alabama... Syracuse last lost in the NCAA Tournament to Kansas in the second round of the 2001 tournament (58-87 in Dayton, Ohio).
· Syracuse stormed back from an 11-point deficit (42-53) to go on a 13-2 run to tie the game at 55-55.
· Despite only four points in the first half, sophomore Gerry McNamara exploded for 20 second-half points for 24 total points and now has 20 or more points in 10 games this season.
· Junior forward Hakim Warrick had 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting from the floor, bettering his season scoring average of 19.8 coming into the game... he also led the team with eight rebounds... he has played at least 40 minutes in seven of the last eight games and has played without rest (40 minutes) in 14 of the Orangemen's 31 games this season... Warrick ended his junior season scoring in double-digits in 30 of 31 games (nine points against Binghamton).
· Syracuse trailed 38-36 after the first half, marking the 10th time they have trailed at the half this season... they are now 4-6 this season when trailing at the half.
· For the third time during the NCAA Tournament this year, Syracuse had at least three players scoring in double-digits.
Alabama Post Game Press Conference Quotes
Alabama Head Coach Mark Gottfried:
"I'm really proud of my team. They have been so determined all through this tournament and the last month of the season. They are just a determined bunch of guys and they beat a good basketball team tonight. Having gone through our conference which is one on the best and having what some people say is one of the toughest schedules as far as RPI, we played some good teams. I'm proud of our guys. I'm proud they took the step that our program has never taken and got to the final eight. That is something they should feel good about. A lot of different guys stepped up and had great games. Chuck Davis I thought in the second half, I thought he was terrific and I don't think they had an answer for him. Big win for us, we're excited about it, but I think we are still a hungry group that is ready to play this next game."
(On emotion of win)
"It means a lot to me because I played at Alabama and we didn't get to this point. I told my team that I'm 40 years old and there is nothing I can do about it now, and you don't want to have regrets. You have an opportunity today to do it and I can't change what happened to me back then and it means a lot. When I came to Alabama I wasn't bashful about playing for a national championship, I think that is what our goals need to be and I'm excited about taking this next step and hopefully we are not done."
(On Demetris Nichols' defense)
"He did a nice job, he didn't play a lot of minutes, but Demetris is bigger and I thought Antoine (Pettway) was tired. I tell you Antoine Pettway had an unbelievable day. He had 10 points, 9 assists and no turnovers in a Sweet 16 game. I tease around about this, but he reminds me of the little engine that could. He keeps coming, keeps playing, plays hard and he is really gifted."
(On Syracuse defense)
"When you play against a zone at some point you do have to make some shots, but I didn't want to tell my guys that is the only way you can win the game. We wanted to go inside early, but we were making our shots. We made eight three point shots in the first half and that was good. In their mind I think they knew we had to get the ball to the basket, get to the foul line, try to get to the double bonus and not let the zone eliminate us from those things. The second half I think we did a better job of getting the ball inside. Evan Brock did a nice job in there. When they went to man, our guys really lit up then. There was a confidence in them at that point that we could get something done."
(On the development of the team)
"We played a great schedule and I think two things helped us. One we took a trip in the summertime to the Bahamas. Even though we only won five games, we didn't play great competition, but it helped this group because they hadn't played. Last year we had all the other guys playing. Second thing was we opened the season against Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden and we had no idea how we could compete with a team like that. We had the lead late in the game and I think that night our guys believed we could pretty good.. Even though we lost that game it was a confidence builder for us and throughout the year they just played hard. They never get down on each other, they play together and they compete every single day.
(On Chuck Davis in the second half)
"We just started going down there to him and he just started dominating. He's such a great player I think he demands the double team. We just started giving the ball to him and he started working, working it out. He's a great player"
(On going inside in the second half)
"When they went man-to-man we started pounding the ball inside. The first half they played mostly zone. They were leaving our shooters wide open so we could tell that we had to take the open look. In the second half they started going man-to-man and Chuck started posting up and you have to give it to him when he calls for it."
(On why Alabama did not do that in the first half)
"They were in zone. They were leaving the shooters open, they were closing out to the shooters. They were making us shoot first and then go to the post later. We still went to him in the first half, but he was mostly creating for the other players the first half. We were going to him in the short corner and he was basically just taking his man one-on-one and finding me, finding Earnest, so he was getting open looks. So he was getting the ball, but in the second half, we just came and started scoring more."
(On shutting down Hakim Warrick in the second half)
"Him and McNamara, they're going to get their points. We just have to make every shot they take a tough shot. That was our whole game plan. We didn't want either one of them to come out and score 43 points like they did in the first half. We just wanted to contend every shot they took."
(On being the first Alabama team to reach this level)
"It feels great. People were doubting us and saying that we weren't going to do it, and look at us now, we're the first team to make it to the Elite 8. We're happy we made it but we're not satisfied at all."
(On the team's shooting)
"We were getting good looks and knocking them down."
(On the first half)
"We did a good job of getting the ball inside and knocking down our shots early."
(On the scoring runs that Syracuse made)
"We just kept our cool. They were going to make their runs and we were going to make our runs. They made their runs and we tried to weather it."
(On Alabama moving on to the next round)
"We weren't through playing. We wanted to do something that has never been done at this school before. We came out, played hard and layed it all on the line."
(On adjusting to Warrick)
"In the first half he was making jump shots and fade aways and getting layups. In the second half our coach told us to try to limit Warrick's touches."
Kennedy Winston takes the ball upcourt.
Earnest Shelton led the Tide with 22 points.
Antoine Pettway steals the ball from Syracuses's Gerry McNamarara.
Pettway heads downcourt.
Pettway provides leadership for the Tide.
Chuck Davis plays tough defense in the post.
The Tide coaching staff discusses strategy.
Coach Orlando Early calls the play.
Jermareo Davidson swats away a Hakim Warrick shot.
Demetrius Smith scrambles for a loose ball.
... and throws a pass downcourt.
Earnest Shelton takes it up strong.
Chuck Davis shoots over the Syracuse front line.
Emmett Thomas lays it up and in.
Coach Gottfried shows his emotion of the big game.
Chuck Davis slams it home over Hakim Warrick.
Chuck Davis lays it up and in.
The Tide bench anxiously watches the action.
The Bama bench celebrates a great run.
Coach Tom Asbury congratulates Coach Gottfried.
Coach Gottfried hugs Coach Phillip Pearson in the locker room.
Coach Gottfried addresses his Elite Eight team.
Bama huddles up in celebration.