Alabama battled tooth and nail with the 11th (9th in some polls) ranked Wichita State Shockers Tuesday night, but fell in the end 72-67. After a slow start 'Bama battled back to take a brief first half lead, before trailing 33-32 at the break. In the second half WSU came out strong and stretched the lead to six points before the Tide could get going.
'Bama battled back and eventually tied the game at 49 as Trevor Releford caught fire from the three point line. The Tide took their first lead of the game on a Releford three at 52-51 with 8:32 left. With six minutes left 'Bama lead by three, at 56-53, which was their largest lead of the night. From there Wichita came back and was able to maintain a one to three point lead until the end.
The game was lost at the free throw line and on the boards. The Tide was 14 of 19 from the charity stripe and the Shockers were 25-27. WSU also won the rebound battle 38-26. Wichita is a big, physical team that plays great defense and gets to the free throw line, which they did tonight to claim the victory. 'Bama made one more field goal and four more three pointers than Wichita, but the free throw line made the difference. 'Bama recorded 12 assists and had only nine turnovers, to WSUs six assists and 12 turnovers.
The game was in doubt to the very end when the Tide allowed the Shockers to grab three offensive rebounds at the 1:26 mark, while only being down by three points. Releford lead the Tide with 22 points and six assists, with only one turnover. Rodney Cooper chipped in 14 points. Nick Jacobs and Retin Obasohan had eight points each. Jimmie Taylor led on the boards with five rebounds. Cleanthony Early dominated the inside for the Shockers, scoring 26 points, going 7-11 from the field and 11-11 from the free throw line.
Once again the Tide was good enough to have a chance, but not quite good enough to seal the deal. The loss dropped the team's record to 5-5. WSU pushed their season record to 11-0. 'Bama has suffered some close losses this year, all to good teams with good records, but must win some of these close games. Another opportunity comes knocking on Saturday night in Coleman, as Xavier comes to town sporting an 8-3 record. It is mighty early to deem a game must win, but this one just might qualify. After that game the Tide heads west to play UCLA.