“I thought we came out tonight for 40 minutes and really did a good job,” UA head coach Anthony Grant said. “Defensively, I thought we played great. I felt like it was a pretty dominating performance by our guys and we were able maintain our composure when we got into some foul trouble the first half. The guys that came in did a great job of giving us the some energy. Through the second half we were able to build a lead. When we subbed the guys, they did a great job at building on that lead. It was great (tonight’s game) coming off of last night, learning the lessons that we needed to learn from that game. We were able to come out and to close this one out strong. I’m really proud of the effort and growth of our team.”
"I just thought Alabama was outstanding," stated head coach Jay Wright. "They are very disciplined, well-coached, very physical and solid. I thought they were really intelligent offensively. (Alabama) is just a very good basketball team. "On our end, it was a lot of little things. (We had) foul trouble and weren't physical enough. It was a lot of little things for us but mostly a case of Alabama being very, very good."
As his team gathered in a huddle during a media timeout while leading Villanova by 10 with 11:35 remaining in Friday's 2k Sports Classic final, Anthony Grant issued a pertinent reminder. Just one evening prior, the Crimson Tide had been up 14 on Oregon State with less than 10 minutes to play, but became so passive in protecting their advantage that they came within a whistle of losing it. Only a timeout called by Beavers coach Craig Robinson a moment prior prevented Ahmad Starks' would-be game-tying three from counting, and when Oregon State couldn't score in the final 12 seconds, the Tide eked out a 65-62 win. And so, Grant said after the Villanova game, his players "were reminded that we needed to play it out, that we needed to understand that we've got to finish games and how to do that, what we needed to do to accomplish that -- that we needed to stay aggressive." Message received: Beginning with a three from Rodney Cooper on its next possession, Alabama turned an advantage into a romp, pulling away in a 77-55 win to end the two-day event celebrating midcourt at Madison Square Garden. "I thought we did a better job tonight of dealing with [the lead]," Grant said. "It's about getting better and I thought this tournament allowed us to do that."
Trevor Releford and Alabama passed an early test with ease in a championship-game blowout. Releford hit all five of his 3-point shots and scored 25 points as the Crimson Tide beat Villanova 77-55 on Friday night, running away in the second half to win the 2K Sports Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project. "I thought we came out tonight for 40 minutes and really did a good job," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "Our style of play defensively, I thought it was a great effort. You look at the numbers from a defensive standpoint, I felt like it was a pretty dominating performance by our guys."
Alabama (4-0) wants to prove some people wrong, too. Coming off the school’s first NCAA tournament berth in six years, the Crimson Tide were picked to finish just sixth in the SEC this season -- which would likely land them on the bubble for the Big Dance, at best. They look better than that right now. But remember, we haven’t even hit Thanksgiving yet. Also recall Alabama got off to a hot start a year ago, winning its first seven games, including a pre-Thanksgiving tournament in Puerto Rico. And the team still had to scratch and claw its way into the Big Dance. Grant’s got a young squad -- of the seven players who got 20 or more minutes Friday night, there were two juniors, four sophomores and a freshman. These guys have a lot of basketball to play, and a lot of growing up to do. That’s why the Alabama coach didn’t want to talk about defying expectations just yet. “We’re four games in,” Grant said. “I don’t have a crystal ball. We just gotta continue to try to get better, and grow and learn.”
Villanova is a study in contrasts. The Wildcats have experienced moments of great joy this season, rallying from an eight-point deficit in the final 1:15 of regulation and then beating Purdue in overtime during the semifinals of the 2K Classic at the Garden. But there also have been moments of great pain as this young Big East team searches to find its way. Alabama’s talented sophomore guard Trevor Releford gave Villanova (3-1) an education Friday night, scoring 25 points on 8-for-10 shooting and making all five of his three-point attempts as the Crimson Tide (4-0) rolled to a 77-55 victory in the championship game before a sparse crowd of 6,177. Alabama shot 56.8%, including 9 for 15 on three-pointers, and limited Villanova to just 32.8% shooting, playing with the type of team chemistry that should make it a factor in the SEC. “That was a pretty dominating defensive effort,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
Star watch: Alabama’s guards continue to impress. Sophomore Trevor Lacey, the team’s leading scorer entering the game (19.3 point per game), got in early foul trouble and scored just seven points. But junior Trevor Releford and sophomore Rodney Cooper picked up the slack, finishing with 25 and 17, respectively. Both can shoot it from deep and penetrate as well, making them very difficult to deal with.
“I hope Alabama is a great team,” Jay Wright said. “They’re a lot better than us right now.” The Tide dominated almost every facet of the game from beginning to end. Villanova went more than 10 minutes in the first half without scoring a field goal. The Wildcats shot just 31.9 percent from the floor and 31.3 percent from three-point range. Alabama outrebounded Villanova, 37-27, while the Wildcats committed 14 turnovers. Forward JayVaughn Pinkston – who was named to the all-tournament team – led Villanova with 17 points. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono added 11 points. They were the only two Wildcats to score in double digits. “On our end, it was a lot of little things,” Wright said. “Foul trouble. Not playing physical enough. Not sharing the ball. Trying to do it individually. Just a lot – a lot – of little things that lead to a game like this.”