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Bama Notches Big 56-50 Win Over UCLA

An ugly win beats a pretty loss any day, and Bama got one on Sunday night, beating UCLA 56-50 in Tuscaloosa. Ricky Tarrant led the way with 24 points, and Levi Randolph added 15, including the 1,000th point of his Tide career, as Alabama moves to 9-3.

Ricky Tarrant gets instructions from coach Anthony Grant. Tarrant led the Tide to a 56-50 victory over UCLA on Sunday night.
Ricky Tarrant gets instructions from coach Anthony Grant. Tarrant led the Tide to a 56-50 victory over UCLA on Sunday night.
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams that have combined for 17 Final Four appearances and 11 National Championships met at Coleman Coliseum on Sunday night, as Alabama hosted UCLA. Okay, all of the Final Fours and championships belong to the Bruins - Alabama has one Elite Eight appearance in its history. The Tide was facing the historical equivalent of Alabama football. However this isn't your daddy's UCLA team. Alabama won a defensive slugfest by a score of 56-50. 'Bama improved to 9-3 on the year, while the Bruins dropped to 8-5.

A week after losing to Kentucky by a score of 84-42, where they trailed 41-7 at half time, and 24-0 to start the game, the Bruins struggles continued on Sunday. UCLA's Norman Powell scored on a dunk to open the game. The Bruins didn't score another field goal for almost eight minutes. Neither team shot well, and at the half the Tide led 29-17, despite 10-30 (33%) shooting from the field, and 3-17 (17.6%) from three point range, and 6-10 (60%) from the free throw line. Fortunately for the Tide UCLA shot only 5-28 (18%) from the field, 0-7 from the three point line and 7-11 (64%) from the free throw line. 'Bama's Ricky Tarrant was the only bright spot offensively for either team in the first stanza. Tarrant outscored the Bruins by himself, with 18 points at the half.

UCLA came out with new life after intermission, as Isaac Hamilton sparked a rally with two quick three-pointers and a pair of free throws, cutting into the Tide lead. The Tide was sluggish and out of sync offensively for the most part of the second half, particularly when Tarrant went out with a leg injury. Justin Coleman has struggled at the point in relief of Tarrant in the past few games, so Levi Randolph slid over to ball handling duties -not always the best option for the Tide.

The Bruins closed the lead to one with 9:40 left when Bryce Alford (son of head coach Steve Alford) hit a three and Kevon Looney had a steal and a dunk. 'Bama was able to keep a three to four point lead, doing just enough to stay ahead for the next few minutes. Alford hit a step back three from the top of the key to close the gap to one, with 3 minutes 40 seconds left. 'Bama continued to miss free throws, keeping UCLA in the game. With 2:15 left Hamilton hit a corner three to even the score at 48. Sloppy ball handling (18 turnovers) hurt the Bruins all night, and they turned the ball over with a chance to take the lead. 'Bama then had a bad turnover, leading to a put-back basket by Hamilton to tie the game at 50 with 1:06 left.

The Tide continued their make-one, miss-one, free throw shooting to take a one point lead with 49 seconds left. Alford missed two three pointers, and Randolph finally closed out the scoring with five straight free throws down the stretch to seal the victory, 56-50. For the game 'Bama shot 17-51 (33%) from the field, 4-22 (18%) from the three point line and 18-30 (60%) from the free throw line. The Bruins finished 16-52 (30%), 5-19 (26%) from three and 13-19 (68%) from the charity stripe.

Tarrant and Randolph were pretty much the offense for the Tide, scoring 24 and 15 points, respectively. Shannon Hale added six, Michael Kessens had four, and Riley Norris scored three. Jimmie Taylor scored only two points, but tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. Rodney Cooper did not score a point, but tied for the team lead with seven rebounds. Kessens added six rebounds and Norris and Randolph contributed five each. Alford had 16 to lead the Bruins, and Hamilton added 15. UCLA out rebounded Alabama by a 40-39 margin. The Tide is now 9-0 when attempting more free throws than their opponent, and 0-3 when the opponent has more attempts. 'Bama just needs to get back to their early season success rate, percentage wise. Through eight games the Tide was leading the nation, hitting just over 80% of their attempts. The percentage had dropped to 75% entering tonight's game, but dropped further with the dismal performance against the Bruins.

After the game coach Anthony Grant praised his teams defense, saying " the team gutted it out defensively, and on the boards" and " that was a big key to the victory. Tarrant said that he was "having cramps, that was all" and "I will be all right."

Although not a aesthetically pleasing game, this was still a big victory for the Tide. A victory over a name brand opponent is always a good thing. The win gave 'Bama their second victory over the Bruins in five career games. This was the first game between the two in the state of Alabama. The Tide's other victory over UCLA was the same day as coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's funeral in 1983.

Early in the season 'Bama was more fluid on offense, and was averaging 75 plus points per game. Over the last five games the Tide has reverted back to what some people call "Grantsketball", tightening up on defense and slowing down on offense. In the last five games no opponent has scored has many as 60 point in a game. In that same stretch the Tide has scored 65, 52,69,60 and 56, and has a record of 4-1 in those games. With more depth than past seasons, the team has the ability to play a 94-foot game, pressing and running through out the game, but Grant has tightened up the rotation and seems more comfortable slugging it out. Grant will need to loosen the reigns somewhat going forward to take advantage of his team's talents.

Alabama plays next on Friday, January 2nd, at home vs North Florida at 6:00 p.m. (SEC Network+). The five-game home stand will end with the first SEC game, playing Texas A&M on January 6th at 8:00 p.m. (SEC Network).

Roll Tide Y'all, Support Bama Basketball