TUSCALOOSA ?? Alonzo Gee scored 21 points and had nine rebounds to lead the University of Alabama to an 80-73 win against Wofford on Monday night in Coleman Coliseum.
The game was the first of four, the first two taking place on campus sites, that Alabama plays in the Findlay Toyota Las Vegas Classic. Each of the eight teams in the tournament is guaranteed four games. Alabama, 6-3, is hosting the first two rounds. It follows the Wofford game with Texas Pan American at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday, December 19 in Coleman Coliseum. Wofford, 4-4 and 1-1 in the Southern Conference, travels to West Lafayette, Ind., where it will play Purdue on Wednesday.
Taking advantage of its 3-point shooting, where it made 12 of 26 for the game, Wofford took the game’s lead at 3-2 on a 3-point shot made by Junior Salters with 18:37 remaining in the first half and did not let go, still leading Alabama 37-36 at halftime. Wofford opened the game by making six 3-point shots within the first five minutes of the game. The Terriers made 10 of 14 three-point shots by halftime, led by Salters who was a perfect 4 of 4 from that range and had 12 points at the break.
Alabama took its first lead on a Richard Hendrix layup with 19:48 to open the half and go ahead 38-37. Wofford would briefly overtake Alabama again at 41-40 on a layup from Tyler Whatley with 18:11 remaining in the game. Hendrix put the Crimson Tide ahead for good beginning at 42-41 with 17:26 remaining in the game when he made a layup.
It was Alabama’s first game in nine days, since December 8, in a break necessary for the players to take their final exams.
“Let me start off by saying, first of all, the first five minutes of the game I don’t think we had nearly the energy that we needed to have,” said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried of his team’s start. “That’s my responsibility. We’ve got to come out there and get a good start. I think what happens when you start the game and all of the sudden you hit four or five in a row, undoubtedly you’re going to feel a little differently about how the game is played all night long.
Alabama shot .545% in the game, making 30-55 from the field. Gee was 6 of 17 from the field and 3 of 6 from 3-point range and 6 of 9 at the free throw line for his 21 points in his 29 minutes of play. Hendrix scored 16 points, making 7 of 11 from the field to go with five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Mykal Riley scored 11 points and had three assists. Playing the point guard position, freshman Rico Picket had nine points and three assists, and coming off the bench and playing the two guard, Brandon Hollinger had nine points and four assists in 27 minutes.
Free throw shooting slowed the Tide in the game as it made 12 of 24.
Wofford was led by Shane Nichols with 20 points, including 4 of 13 three-point shots and making 8 of 9 free throws. Salters went 5 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 17 points. Drew Gibson had 13 points, and, coming off the bench, Tim Johnson had the game’s lone double-double, scoring 10 points to go with 14 rebounds in his 28 minutes in the game. Wofford shot .389% from the field, making 21-54 and made .462% (12-26) from 3-point range. It was also powered by its foul shooting where it made .905%, connecting upon 19 of 21.
“We were slow coming out,” said Gee. “That’s what hurt us in the beginning. We just have to come out, play hard and be aggressive. That’s what it is. We have to play aggressive and we have to be leaders out there.”
After hosting Texas Pan American on Wednesday, Alabama will travel to Orleans Arena in Las Vegas to play Missouri State on December 22. It will play either Purdue or Iowa State on December 23. There is no TV for the games in Las Vegas, though fans can watch a webcast of the game, live, by logging on www.lasvegasclassiconlinetv.com. All of the games in Las Vegas will be on the webcast.