Trevor Lacey nailed a 3-point shot at the buzzer to give Alabama a hard-fought, come-from-behind 70-67 victory over South Dakota State in the opener for both teams. With the contest tied 46-46 with 9:41 left, Alabama built a 60-53 lead, but the Jackrabbits fought back to tie the game 67-67 with 28 seconds left, setting up Lacey's dramatic shot. Alabama coach Anthony Grant said that a play designed for Rodney Cooper was the first option for the last shot. "I was the screener. The way they defended it left me open off the pick," explained Lacey. "I just had to make a play." "When the ball left Trevor's hands, I knew it was going to go in," Cooper said. "I was confident it was going to go in."
"South Dakota State, with the team that they have, every guy that you saw on the floor, they came out here today ready to play," Grant said. "It's a great program. They have some good players - Nate Wolters is a heck of a player. Tonight he goes five for six from the three-point line, you know, he's special." In addition to Releford and Lacey, two other Alabama players scored in double figures with sophomore guard Rodney Cooper posting 17 points and senior guard Andrew Steele scoring 11. "You know, when you look at it, going back and forth in the second half, the way we fought back, you know, it was great to see our guys gain their confidence," Grant said.
On the defense's performance at the end of the first half: "I thought really all of our guys contributed and put in a good effort. We were having a hard time finding the basket. You know, we talked about it at halftime. We needed to refocus, re-commit on the defensive end of the floor, try to get some stops, and get out there in transition for an easy basket. Coming out of that timeout, we get a steal and a quick layup. Off of that, the crowd is in it, we got momentum. Our defense came first."
"I told the guys this was a character win. You look at the way our football team handled adversity in Baton Rouge, and it is a great inspiration to our guys to witness that every day. "This was a great game tonight. We got in a hole in the first half and what brought us back was the defensive effort."
Earlier in the day, Trevor Releford was named a preseason first-team All-SEC selection by the league coaches. What do we make of the junior point guard not starting? "I really don’t think it’s as big a deal. … He played 29 minutes tonight. I thought he had a tremendous impact on the game. I thought he did a great job." Did he not start because of some sort of punishment? "Coach’s decision," Grant said. The star of the game was impressed with Releford. "He’s a good player," Wolters said. "I’ve seen him play before on TV, so I knew he was pretty good. He’s really quick, really fast with the ball." Releford scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, many on short flips following signature drives to the basket. Releford also did not start an exhibition game Tuesday, but it sounded as if Grant just wanted to get a look at Lacey playing point guard. There obviously is more to it than that, and it will be interesting to see if Releford starts a 4 p.m. CST home game Sunday against West Alabama.
Last season, Alabama ranked as one of the nation’s worst at making 3-pointers, but that turned into the weapon that lifted the Tide in its season opener Friday night. After trailing for much of the game, Alabama beat South Dakota State 70-67 as Tide guard Trevor Lacey nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. After the opening minute, the visiting Jackrabbits led the whole way until about 11 minutes to go, when Alabama’s Trevor Releford nailed a basket and a foul shot to give the Tide a two-point lead. Releford led the second-half charge by scoring 15 of his team-high 18 points after intermission.
"He hit a tough shot with probably our best defender on him, Brayden over the top," South Dakota State coach Scott Nagy said. "Lacey’s a good player. I would guess by the end of the season he’ll be their leading scorer. I don’t think there’s anything we could have done more. It shouldn’t have come down to that. We didn’t deserve to win the game."
"It was a heck of a basketball game, a heck of a way to start the season," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "I told our guys - I told everybody - coming into this game that it was going to be a really knockdown, drag out game. That shot by Trevor Lacey, you know, it was great to see that. It was just a heck of a basketball game." Junior guard Trevor Releford led the team in scoring with 18 points, while sophomore guard Levi Randolph pulled down a team-best six rebounds. Lacey finished with 15 points on the night. Jack Rabbits guard Nate Wolters led all scorers with 30 points. South Dakota State led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but Alabama rallied back to cut the Jack Rabbits' lead to two at the break, 29-27. "I think our guys did a great job of trying to get their opportunities," Grant said. "Our guys responded well when they got down early. We stayed together, we kept fighting and our defense got us back into it before the half."
"We're not looking for any moral victories; we're disappointed in the way we played. We didn't shoot the ball like we normally do and had too many experienced players play like they were inexperienced," head coach Scott Nagy said. "Their pressure bothered us. I didn't think it would bother us as much as it did, but it did, and it was just disappointing. We've been in enough games like this now and we have we have enough experienced players that coming in and playing Alabama shouldn't phase us but I just felt like it did, which is why we didn't shoot the ball like we should've and why we didn't take care of it like we should have."