"I’m very proud of our effort today," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "It was a great win for us. I felt like at the beginning of the game, our energy and effort was really up there. Our guys did a great job by locking in our defense in order to be successful today."
Alabama used an 8-0 run midway through the first half to break open a tight game and eventually build a 37-26 halftime lead.scored eight first-half points despite turning his right ankle and briefly leaving the game. The Tide led by as many as 14 in the first half. But South Carolina pushed back early in the second half, pulling within 42-40 on R.J. Slawson's layup with 13:48 remaining. The Gamecocks stayed within striking distance throughout the final minutes and appeared to have the momentum after Williams' two 3-pointers, but couldn't score again until a layup with 1:33 remaining. South Carolina had 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 29-25. Alabama had a huge advantage at the foul line, making 24 of 29 while South Carolina made 5 of 6.
Alabama had a three-point plan going into its first-round SEC tournament game Thursday against South Carolina. "These last couple days at practice, we've been preaching, Attack the rim, get fouled, get to the line," freshman guard Levi Randolph said. The plan didn't include 3-point shots because, well, let's be honest. "We're not really a good 3-point shooting team," freshman forward Nick Jacobs said. "Coach (Antony Grant) said keep attacking and go to the free-throw line."
Even with Lacey's 3-pointer putting the Crimson Tide up by five points, 58-53, with less than a minute left, the drama wasn't quite over. The Gamecocks scored on two Malik Cooke free throws with 43 seconds to go, then stole the ball away from Trevor Releford on the inbounds pass. Cooke's attempt at a tying 3-pointer was no good, and after an Alabama rebound, Lacey hit two more foul shots to ice the game. "There were a lot of clock situations where plays had to be made, and he made them," Grant said of Lacey, who led the Crimson Tide with 15 points. "Every shot he made was a big shot, a shot we needed. We've had a variety of guys step up this year, but his ability to step up tonight was absolutely huge for us."
Trevor Lacey scored 15 points, JaMychal Green added 12 and Alabama played lockdown defense in the final six minutes to beat South Carolina. The fifth-seeded Crimson Tide led for most of the game, but South Carolina tied it at 51 on the second of back-to-back 3-pointers by Brenton Williams with 6:38 remaining. Alabama (21-10) then held 12th-seeded South Carolina (10-21) scoreless for more than five minutes and did enough on offense to ease past the Gamecocks. Lacey was efficient for the Crimson Tide and clutch in the final minutes, scoring seven points in the final 3:04 to put the game away. He made 4 of 5 shots from the field - including a 3-pointer - and was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Turning point: The teams battled down the stretch, with Alabama's lead hovering at four points or fewer throughout the final six minutes. A beautiful layup from Bruce Ellington, who broke Bama's hearts in the teams' first meeting, cut the lead to two points with just more than a minute remaining. With the game entering its final minute, the Tide's Andrew Steele found Trevor Lacey at the top of the arc. Lacey picked quite a time to hit Alabama's only 3-pointer of the afternoon, as he connected to give the Tide a five-point lead with 45 seconds left.
South Carolina (10-21) was led by freshman guard Damien Leonard and sophomore guard Brenton Williams, both with 13 points in the contest. Bruce Ellington added 11 points, all in the second half. Alabama (21-10) was led by freshman guard Trevor Lacey with 15 points. JaMychal Green added 12 points and seven rebounds. The Gamecocks were plagued by foul trouble throughout the contest. Anthony Gill played just 10 minutes, after picking up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and a third early in the second half, while Ellington was forced to sit a large portion of the second half after picking up his fourth foul of the contest with 12:53 remaining. The Gamecocks were whistled for 25 fouls in the game, compared to just a dozen for the Crimson Tide.
The second half turned out to be a game of runs. South Carolina came out in the first five minutes of the second half and trimmed Alabama's 11-point halftime lead to just four, 42-38. In response, the Tide went on an 8-2 run over the next six and a half minutes to take a 50-42 advantage. South Carolina responded with a quick 9-1 run to tie things up at 51-all on a Brenton Williams three-pointer with 6:38 left in the game. Lacey finally put the game away with a crucial three-point basket which gave Alabama a 58-53 lead with just under a minute left to play. "I give South Carolina a lot of credit," Grant said. "They came out in the second half, and played inspired. Our guys stayed together though. They kept their poise, played with heart and compassion, and got the win."
After scoring 26 of its first-half points in the paint, the Crimson Tide shot just 5-of-14 from the floor in the second. Trevor Lacey, who led Alabama with 15 points, said the Tide got its wires crossed when South Carolina switched defenses and got away from attacking the rim. "We were running zone plays and they were actually in man-to-man," Lacey said. "We kind of settled a little bit ... just played to the last few seconds of the shot clock. We should have attacked right away and made plays from the beginning." (ep) The Tide's second-half swoon was reminiscent of its Valentine's Day collapse against the Gators last month, when Alabama was outscored 16-0 to open the second half and never recovered in a 61-52 loss. Fortunately for the Tide, they had an 11-point halftime cushion Thursday instead of the 26-all tie they shared with Florida last month. Fortunately for the Tide, they had JaMychal Green -- who was suspended for the Florida game last month -- on the floor Thursday to help them control the paint.