The first time LSU dribbled the basketball past midcourt and into the University of Alabama side of the playing surface Wednesday night, a mock cheer rose up from the Alabama student section. That was a tribute to the Crimson Tide’s BCS football championship win in New Orleans on Monday — but it was also fair warning that the basketball Tigers were going to encounter some stifling defense as well. UA used that defense to win its second straight Southeastern Conference game, defeating LSU 69-53 by holding the Tigers to 36 percent shooting (19 of 53) for the night.
The Alabama men's basketball team improved to 13-3 and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play with a 69-53 win over the LSU Tigers before 14,425 fans Wednesday night at Coleman Coliseum. With the loss, LSU drops to 11-5 overall and 1-1 in SEC action. Sophomore guard Trevor Releford scored a game and season-high 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting, leading the Crimson Tide in scoring for the fourth time in the past five games. Junior forward Tony Mitchell recorded his ninth career double-double, and fifth of the season, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman forward Trevor Lacey added a career-high 10 rebounds to go along with six points. "It's always good when you can get a win," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "Obviously now in the SEC, we get to take our record to 2-0 in the league and I'm pleased with that. There are a lot of things today I think we did do well."
"Yeah I thought our defense really carried us. When you look at the defensive numbers, that was key for us. We understood that they were a very explosive offensive team in terms of guys who shoot the three-point shot and then guys on the interior that can score and be very effective. So we felt like defensively we would have to do a great job and I felt like our effort tonight on the defensive end was pretty good and I thought rebounding was another key for us. They got 13 offensive rebounds which is too many, but had a +10 advantage on the boards, so those things are always good. Fifty percent from the field is always a good number."
"I was just taking what the defense was giving me," Releford said. "I was playing to my identity." Unlike its football counterparts, who were shut out by Alabama in the BCS Championship game Monday night, LSU (11-5, 1-1) showed some offense. The Tigers used a 9-0 run to lead 11-8. It was just the fifth run of 8-0 or larger the Crimson Tide has surrendered this season. With the score tied at 16 at the 8:54 mark, Alabama closed the half with a 15-3 spurt to take a 31-19 lead at intermission. Ben Eblen scored on a driving lay-up, Mitchell hit a jump shot, Levi Randolph slammed home an alley-oop dunk, Releford made a lay-up and a jumper, Green made a jump shot and Randolph nailed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Crimson Tide some separation.
Doak Walker Award winner Trent Richardson will announce Thursday if he plans to enter the NFL draft or return to Alabama. The Heisman Trophy finalist told 97.3 The Zone he had not made up his mind, and was in his hometown of Pensacola where he would come to a decision. Alabama called a 1 p.m. press conference regarding an announcement with its juniors. Those weighing their options include linebacker Dont'a Hightower, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and safety Robert Lester.
Remember what you thought when Alabama hired McElwain in 2008? Jim who? You weren't alone. "The phone rang, and I thought maybe they had the wrong number," McElwain said. "That they would come out to Fresno and take a look at a guy who grew up in Montana, that's an unbelievable thing." Gus Malzahn drew the attention in this state, often for good reason. All McElwain did was win one more ring and become Alabama's best offensive coordinator in decades.
With over a month to prepare, redemption was the goal. Nick Saban, then 2-3 against Les Miles, could not withstand another loss. At the time, Saban was 6-1 in "revenge" games at Alabama, the only loss being the Nov. 5 showing against LSU. Another loss to Miles could symbolize that Miles had Saban’s number. The team could not afford a second loss to LSU in one season. In a season filled with BCS controversy, another loss would humiliate the Tide in the eyes of an already SEC-sickened country. Another loss would only raise the battle cries of the "belittled" Big-12 and Pac-12 teams and fans. As Trent Richardson burst to the outside and down the sideline for the first touchdown from either team in a combined 90+ minutes of play, redemption was obvious. Redemption was obvious on the foot of Jeremy Shelley, who tied the bowl record of five field goals in a game and was four inches low on the blocked kick and one foot right from being a perfect seven for seven.
The all-SEC BCS National Championship Game is argument enough for what kind of bowl season it was for the league even if the game itself was a yawner. But throw in the SEC’s 6-3 record in bowl games (with one of those losses belonging to LSU in the national title game), and it’s a postseason that ranks up there as one of the SEC’s best in the BCS era
It is mildly amusing to read the two different takes on the pitifully low television ratings garnered by Monday night’s Bowl Championship Series title game. While the cable industry prefers the headline "ESPN Scores Cable’s Second-Largest Audience Ever," everyone else has been quick to point out that it drew fewer viewers than any B.C.S. championship game ever. Clearly, there are different curves on which to judge the 24.2 million who tuned in to ESPN to watch Alabama obliterate Louisiana State, 21-0. But it was hard for anyone to argue the ratings were good. There were many reasons for that. The game had little national appeal, considering its two teams play in the same division of the same conference. It was a rematch of a regular-season game that L.S.U. had won by the scintillating score of 9-6. And even the winning team was having trouble scoring touchdowns, Alabama offering a string of five field goals until Trent Richardson emerged with a touchdown run that reminded people why he was a Heisman favorite for about five minutes this season.
Two days after the national championship game, nobody brought up the greatness of Alabama's defense or the ineptitude of LSU's offense. There was a notable lack of discussion about Illinois upsetting Ohio State in basketball or any heated debate about if this really is Northwestern's year in the Indianapolis Convention Center. No, the talk at the annual NCAA convention, which started Tuesday and runs through Saturday, is of multi-year scholarships, cost of living stipends, student-athletes and rules compliance. After a year that ranks among the organization's worst in its 102 year history, it is a time to focus on the issues at hand. Yet, in hallways and over lunch, a fight is brewing among member schools and leadership hell-bent on reform. "This meeting and the board [of directors] meetings are the most substantive since I've been involved in the NCAA," Texas Tech president Guy Bailey said. "I don't know if sea change is the right word but it is a big change. There's serious concern about preserving the collegiate model and maintaining student welfare."
Is it possible that the Bowl Championship Series is finally listening, that it is finally going to take the opportunity of this year’s renegotiations to improve what should be one of the greatest sports products on offer, to be responsive to the complaints of its member schools, fans and the media who want to see a more competitive and less . . . silly system? Well, probably not. But it is possible that the lower TV ratings for Monday night’s championship game and the realization that stretching the bowl season like a well-worn pair of Spanx until the marquee game ended up in the second week of January — a.k.a. NFL playoffs territory — was a bad idea. The BCS might not listen to the collective complaints of America, but it will certainly listen to the cha-ching of the cash registers.
Before the BCS national championship game started Monday night, the Wolverines were fired up. Linebacker Kenny Demens tweeted that he was rooting for Alabama: "Who wouldn't want the challenge of playing against the #1 team in the nation??!!" Similar tweets started flowing from other U-M players after Alabama crushed LSU, 21-0, to win the national title. Across the country, there was envy of Alabama's victory. In Ann Arbor, there was motivation knowing that the Wolverines are scheduled to open the 2012 season Sept. 1 against the Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Back to the point of my article, Nick Saban, quite unlike his predecessors, knew the brilliant brand that was and is Alabama football, and correctly saw that merged with his coaching genius he could quickly return the program to its rightful spot at the top. Having coached two national champions in three years he should be commended, Alabama’s athletic director should erect a statue of him at Bryant-Denny, but after that, he should fire him. Why is this? Alabama should send Saban on his way because simple college football history in modern times says this is the last national title he’ll win for them. It’s not that Saban lacks the talent to win more than two for the Tide, but when we look at the "hottest coaches in college football" going back to the 1980s, it’s when they reach the top as Saban clearly has that their star begins to dim. Inexplicable losses start to reveal themselves, top-of-the-heap recruits don’t pan out, and then in some instances, team success breeds jealousy among rivals on the way to revelations of impropriety on teams of the agent/booster variety.