|Final - 11.27.2011||1||2||Total|
|Va. Commonwealth Rams||33||31||64|
|Alabama Crimson Tide||32||40||72|
"We knew coming in that we had very similar styles of play," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "They came out in the first half and really dictated the tempo. Their defense was outstanding and it got us frustrated in terms of trying to run our offense. I thought things turned around in terms of our offense (in the second half)."
Green led the way for Alabama with 21 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots against an overmatched VCU interior defense. Tony Mitchell was the only other double-figure scorer for Alabama with 13 points. "Coming into the game, the coaches told us how aggressive they would be," Green said. "They kind of got us out of whack in the first half. Their defense was good. In some ways, it was kind of like playing against ourselves."
If this looked like a battle between two look-alike teams, was it any wonder? Alabama coach Anthony Grant previously coached at VCU. He and current VCU coach Shaka Smart both served as assistant coaches under Florida coach Billy Donovan. So it was no surprise that two teams with similar styles on offense and defense waged a close battle Sunday night at Coleman Coliseum. "It pretty much was like looking in a mirror, playing against ourselves," said senior forward JaMychal Green, who had a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Tide, which has won 24 consecutive home games.
The Tide trailed VCU (3-3) by as many as six points in the second half but closed the game on a 12-5 run and allowed only one basket over the final 4 minutes. "During the last four or five minutes of the game, our guys really stepped it up on the defensive end," Grant said. Bradford Burgess hit three 3-pointers in the second half and scored 18 points to lead VCU, which also got 10 points from both Rob Brandenburg and Juvon te Reddic. "Alabama deserved to win tonight," Smart said. "They played really hard and caused us some issues, particularly in the second half. They blocked six shots, but they really changed a lot more shots."
"I tried to explain to our guys the tape doesn't really do justice to how athletic those guys are and how active they are," said Smart, who worked with both Tide players with USA Basketball over the summer. "Green was a monster tonight. He was terrific."
"I’m not happy because we lost," said Burgess, who was recruited to VCU by Grant. "I don’t really believe much in moral victories. We had an opportunity and we let it slip away."
So is it fair for Alabama to get a second chance against LSU, having already lost to the Tigers 9-6 in overtime at Tuscaloosa this month? Well, depends on how you define fair. According to the BCS media guide, the Bowl Championship Series is "designed to match the two top-rated teams in the national championship game." Not the two best teams. Not the teams from the best conferences. Not the teams that have played the toughest schedule or had the most impressive victories — or losses for that matter. Not the top-rated teams that have not already met in the regular season or won a conference championship. Nope, simply the "top-rated teams" according to a formula based on two subjective polls and six computer ratings. That leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
After walk-on safety Will Lowery was lost for the season to a knee injury against Georgia Southern, Sunseri was to have played Lowery's role in Alabama's dime defense (six defensive backs) in the Iron Bowl. But when starting safety Mark Barron was also sidelined with an injury in the game, Sunseri had to play a much larger role. "Vinnie did a good job. We made a few mistakes in the secondary because of the adjustments, but their offense is very, very difficult to defend and make adjustment to," Saban said. "For a young guy that played in his first game, really, in the secondary, I think he did a wonderful job out there today."
The Tide lobbied for its invitation to the Big Easy seconds after head coach Nick Saban shook hands with Auburn coach Gene Chizik following Saturday's 42-14 Alabama win at Jordan-Hare Stadium. "They gave themselves a great opportunity here (Saturday)," Saban said of his team while standing on Auburn's field. "They finished it the right way. I'm really proud of them. ... We lost one game in overtime, probably to the best team in the country. Everybody's got to make their own decisions about all that, but we've got a great football team and I'm really proud of them."
With one game to go, possibly in the BCS Championship Game against LSU's stiff defense, Alabama running back Trent Richardson is within reach of some milestones. He needs 75 yards to break the school single-season rushing record of 1,658 yards, set by Mark Ingram during his Heisman Trophy season in 2009. Richardson needs 17 yards to reach 1,600, which would put him in the top 10 in SEC history. He would surpass the 1,599 yards gained in 1989 by Florida's Emmitt Smith, who went to the same high school as Richardson (Escambia) in Pensacola, Fla. Richardson needs two touchdowns to break the SEC single-season record of 24 touchdowns that Alabama's Shaun Alexander set in 1999.
Today, there is LSU and Alabama, then a gap, followed by a group of pretty good teams, some of which have bad losses. Arkansas is a pretty good team. It just happens to be in the same conference and division with LSU and Alabama in a year those two teams are great. Oklahoma State has a pretty good team, but it had a bad night against Iowa State. Houston is a pretty good team, but it doesn't get any help from its conference schedule. Stanford is a pretty good team, but lately it hasn't played in a dominating fashion. Virginia Tech is pretty good, Oregon is pretty good, Oklahoma is pretty good. LSU and Alabama are great teams.