The Alabama Crimson Tide improved their record to 17-11, 7-8 in the SEC with a hard fought, albeit ugly, home victory over South Carolina by a score of 59-51. The Gamecocks fell to 13-14 overall and 4-11 in SEC play.
The teams started the game as cold as the weather, but 'Bama picked up the pace to pull away in the second half. The game was tied at 22 apiece at halftime, as neither team could do much offensively. The Gamecocks dominated the Tide on the boards by an 18-11 margin at the half. Alabama shot 47% (9-19) in the first half, including 3-8 (38%) from three point range and, continuing a recent and disturbing trend, went a miserable 1-4 (25%) from the charity stripe. USCe was only 9-25 for 36% from the field and 2-12 for 17% from the three-point line at the break, and netted two of four free throw attempts.
Alabama, as it has in many games recently, played much better in the second half, taking its first lead at 33-31 on a Rodney Cooper put-back dunk, the Tide's first fast break points of the evening. Alabama then stretched the lead out to 41-33 before Jimmie Taylor got his third foul and went to the bench. With Michael Kessens out with a stone bruise to his knee, and Shannon Hale out for much of the first half and all of the second half, the Tide was forced to go small with Riley Norris and Rodney Cooper playing in the front-court against the much larger Gamecocks.
The Tide was able to maintain a lead for the rest of the game and, unlike last Saturday night, they were able to hit free throws down the stretch for a much-needed victory. 'Bama was 10-12 from the line in the second half. From the field, the Tide shot 12-23 in the second half and 21-42 for the game, including 6-19 (32%) from the three-point line. USCe only shot 19-55 (34%) from the field including 7-30 (23%) from the three-point line and 6-8 (75%) from the line.
Inexplicably the Gamecocks, despite a 36-26 rebounding margin and a considerable size advantage, hoisted up an incredible 30 three-point attempts. With the Tide playing basically five guards through much of the night, and with Alabama's bigger players in foul trouble, it would seem that the Gamecocks did Coach Grant's squad a favor by not feeding the ball inside more.
Senior captain Levi Randolph was the main man for the Tide, scoring 17 points, collecting six rebounds, and dishing out five assists in 38 minutes. Retin Obasohan continued his torrid play in recent weeks, scoring 15 points. Cooper bounced back from a scoreless first half to tally 11 points to go with his four rebounds and two assists. Taylor netted eight points, picked up five boards, and added two blocks. Norris played 33 minutes and had an important eight points and seven rebounds.
The Gamecocks were led by Laimonas Chatevicius' 18 points and nine rebounds. Duane Notice started hot, finishing with 16 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Michael Carrerea scored seven and tied for the game-high with nine rebounds.
It was good to see the Tide pull out a close one to break a two-game home losing streak, particularly down to six players. The status of Tarrant, Kessens, and Hale for this weekend's game at Vanderbilt is not known at this time, but there is a very good chance none of them will be available to play. This is particularly disheartening since the Tide have a notoriously difficult time at Vandy's Memorial Gym. That game is set for a 3:00 p.m CST tip and will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
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