Once again the Tide played themselves into a chance to win only to squander the opportunity late. Trevor Releford, coming off the bench because of a late flight from Kansas City after Christmas, almost single-handedly willed the team to victory. Releford entered the game at the four minute mark then proceeded to score 34 points and tally five steals in 34 minutes of action.
UCLA jumped out to an early 20-9 lead before Releford keyed a 9-0 run by the Tide to close the gap. The game went back and forth until 'Bama was able to take a 34-33 lead into the half. Releford scored 13 to lead the team at intermission.
The Bruins came out in the second half playing more aggressive and were able to maintain a five to seven point lead for most of the half. Releford did his best to keep the Tide in the game, scoring 21 second half points. The senior point guard scored five points in a 10 second span to tie the game for the Tide with 57 seconds left in the game.
From that point UCLA converted free throws and offensive rebounds to outscore 'Bama eight to zero down the stretch and send the team to a 5-7 record on the season. UCLA ran their record to 11-2.
UCLA showed great balance with five players scoring in double figures and five players grabbing at least five rebounds. The Bruins played eight players, and all played at least 18 minutes each. On the other hand Releford was joined in double figures by only Levi Randolph with 12 points. Freshman Shannon Hale started for the first time in his career and scored nine points, and lead the team with nine rebounds. Nick Jacobs added six points, and no other player scored more than two points.
Once again the Tide got killed on the boards, particularly on the offensive end. UCLA won the rebounding battle 37-26, and more importantly, 18-4 on the offensive end. Carl Engstrom started for 'Bama and played only five minutes, grabbing one rebound. Rodney Cooper started, played 20 minutes, didn't score a point and recorded one rebound. Retin Obasohan continued his struggles, scoring two points and collecting one rebound in 24 minutes. Releford's big game was highlighted by 11-15 shooting from the field, 6-9 from three point range, and 6-6 from the free throw line.
This is not a bad 'Bama team. They just can't, or don't, do the little things to win games. They are in great need of a tough big guy to do the dirty work down low. Even someone as limited as Chris Hines would make a huge difference blocking out, crashing the boards, getting rebounds, and showing a toughness that this team lacks. All the losses have been to teams with good to excellent records but somehow the team needs to find a way to win their share of the 50-50 games. So far that has not happened.
The Tide takes the court again next Saturday, January 4th, at home against Robert Morris. The game tips at 4:30 p.m. in Coleman, just a week before SEC play begins.
Roll Tide Y'all