The Alabama Crimson Tide used their depth and free throw shooting to defeat the Western Carolina Catamounts 80-74 on Monday night, giving Alabama a 2-0 record early in the season. Sophomore Center Jimmie Taylor had his first career double-double, scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Five of Taylor's rebounds were on the offensive glass. Ten Alabama players saw action, with nine of those logging at least 12 minutes. As a team, the Tide was 32-42 from the free throw line.
For a team that looks like they may live and die by the three-point shot, tonight was almost a die night. Alabama was only 2-17 from long range, but found a way to score enough to win. Levi Randolph scored 19 points, hitting all 11 of his free throws, and added six rebounds and two assists. Ricky Tarrant showed why he was so highly-regarded, scoring 18 points, including 8-10 from the charity stripe. Tarrant played 22 minutes. Shannon Hale battled early foul trouble, and scored 10 points in his 18 minutes of play. Rodney Cooper scored only five points, but had six rebounds and two assists. Justin Coleman had five points in 20 minutes of action. Michael Kessens finally got on the floor for 'Bama, after sitting out a year for transferring, and the early part of this season as he recovered from double sports hernia surgery. Kessens played 16 minutes and had five points and four rebounds.
'Bama had a eight point lead, 41-33, at half time, and looked like they could come out after intermission and put the Catamounts away. However the Catamounts' James Sinclair and Rhett Harrelson bombed away from long range and brought WCU back into the game, even taking a 67-61 lead with four minutes remaining. Sinclair scorched the nets for 31 points, and Harrelson, an Enterprise native, added 13. Sinclair had four three-point baskets and Harrelson added three more. The Tide, however, closed the game on a 19-7 run to secure the victory.
Alabama shot 23-49 (46.9%) for the game, 2-17 (11.8%) from three point range, and 32-42 (76.2%) from the free throw line. WCU was 25-59 (42.4%) from the field, 9-28 (32.1%) from three point rand and 15-22 (68.2%) from the free throw line. Alabama won the rebounding battle 37-33. 'Bama turned the ball over 15 times and only had nine assists. The two teams combined for 48 fouls, 28 by WCU and 20 by Alabama.
With so many fouls being called, many of the ticky-tack hand-check variety, it was hard for either team to get in a rhythm. 'Bama is an aggressive, pressing, running team, and they really couldn't get into a flow. With Coleman, Tarrant and Retin Obasohan, 'Bama has three very quick, fast guards that can get up and down the court with anybody in the country. With the added depth this year Coach Anthony Grant has the luxury of mixing and matching, and keeping guys fresh, which was a key down the stretch tonight. Tarrant took over for about a three minutes stretch, and then Coleman came in and hit a big three to give the Tide a late lead that they never surrendered.
Tarrant and Coleman are both point guards, but they played minutes together tonight, giving the team another look, with multiple guys that can handle the ball. Kessens finally seeing action is huge. The big Suisse was rusty, not having played in a game in well over a year, but showed flashes of what he can be. In 16 minutes, Kessens scored five points and grabbed four rebounds, showing good athletic ability and a propensity to mix it up inside, not shying away from contact. Kessens and Taylor played several minutes together, giving the Tide two active big guys that can rebound and protect the rim.
Although this wasn't an impressive margin of victory, it was a good win in a tough situation, showing the team that they can comeback, and they don't have Trevor Releford to lean on to do so. Western Carolina played Mississippi State last week and lead the Bulldogs at halftime before losing by 10 points. The Catamounts should compete for the SoCon conference championship, so at the end of the year this should be, at worst, a decent win for RPI purposes.
When Alabama is hitting their three point shots, and then can press after made shots, they are going to be tough. The Tide has good length, speed and quickness, leading to steals and easy baskets.Even if the opposition breaks the press, they will have used up valuable shot clock seconds. The Tide hits the hard court again on Thursday at 8 pm CST, hosting the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, in another SEC Network game,before traveling to Kansas City to play Iowa State on November 24th, in a 8:30 pm tip that will be televised on ESPN2.
This Tide team seems to have good chemistry, and has several players that can play multiple positions. Since the injured players are back, once they all get used to playing together, and a rotation of sorts is worked out, this can be a dangerous, exciting team. Get behind them, and Roll Tide.
Roll Tide Y'all
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