Daily Archives: January 22, 2013

Some thoughts about Alabama’s win over Kentucky

Alabama center Moussa Gueye (14) shoots over Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the first half. (AP photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter of The Tuscaloosa News)

Alabama center Moussa Gueye (14) shoots over Kentucky forward Nerlens Noel (3) during the first half. (AP photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter of The Tuscaloosa News)

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — The game is finished, the fans have gone home, and the coaches and players from both schools are done with their news conferences. We’re still here in the Coleman Coliseum media room, and here are some final thoughts about Alabama’s 59-55 win over Kentucky before I head home:

Trevor Lacey went down with about four minutes to go, and while he appeared to be in great pain, it wasn’t serious. Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Lacey had cramps in both legs. With about two minutes to go, I saw Lacey running in the hall next to where we sit in the media section during the games.

–I know we poke a little fun from time to time over 7-foot-0 junior Moussa Gueye not scoring, but he certainly deserves credit for how hard he plays, especially in this one.

Facing maybe the best post player in the league, Kentucky 6-10 freshman Nerlens Noel, Gueye managed four points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in 18 minutes of play. Noel had eight points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots — a little below his scoring average, and a little higher in rebounds and blocks. But Gueye proved himself an asset Tuesday night.

–Senior guard Andrew Steele had only four points and two rebounds, but he has a knack for making big plays, which we wrote about more than week ago after Alabama beat Tennessee. Expect to read the same story online from several of my colleagues who have noticed how important Steele is to the team.

Trevor Releford has done awfully well in not forcing his shot so much. He is taking what the defense gives him, and they seem to lose track of him at critical times. He finished with 13 points and made 4 of 10 from the field.

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Tide guts out one against Kentucky

Alabama players celebrate with fans after defeating Kentucky 59-55. (AP photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter of The Tuscaloosa News)

Alabama players celebrate with fans after defeating Kentucky 59-55. (AP photo by Michelle Lepianka Carter of The Tuscaloosa News)

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Defense and guts did it again for the offense-challenged Alabama basketball team, which managed another close win.

The Crimson Tide won its fourth straight Tuesday night, using a healthy dose of scrappy play to beat defending national champion Kentucky 59-55. The Wildcats entered having averaged 77.1 points a game and had a season low of 64 before coming to Coleman Coliseum.

“They shot 36 percent from the field, 15 percent from 3, got outrebounded by 12 and — listen to this — they won,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I love those kinds of games. Neither team played well. This is a gut game, and they gutted it out.”

Gutty play has served Alabama well in its four-game streak. In that stretch, the Crimson Tide (12-6, 4-1 SEC) has won by one point, three points and now four points.

“You look at it and say there’s a lot of things for us to get better as a team,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said. “To be able to win, that speaks volumes for the character of our guys.”

Alabama led the final 9:43 but never by more than four until the final seconds. The Crimson Tide took the lead for good when 6-foot-4 reserve guard Andrew Steele gave his team its guttiest play of the night.

He drove up against Kentucky’s 6-10 post player Nerlens Noel, who leads the league in blocked shots. Even so, Steele managed to make the basket, draw a foul from Noel and made the foul shot for a 41-38 advantage.

“That’s just Drew,” Alabama’s Levi Randolph said. “He’s always making those kinds of plays.”

The game drew Alabama’s first home sellout of the year at 15,383 and an ESPN national television audience. Coleman Coliseum saw its most electric atmosphere of the season, as the fans — some wearing the 10,000 free crimson T-shirts passed out before tipoff — stood for much of the final minutes of the game.

“That gives us an extra boost,” Alabama’s Trevor Releford said. “When we hear the crowd behind us like that, it makes us want to get an extra steal, an extra rebound — gives us extra energy.”

Releford had 13 points, while Randolph managed 11. Both made important foul shots toward the end. Nick Jacobs had a team-high 14 points.

The Crimson Tide got four points, five rebounds and five blocked shots from 7-foot-0 junior Moussa Gueye, who started and played 18 minutes. He battled Noel, who finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

“Moussa is the ultimate teammate,” Releford said. “He comes out and tries to do everything he can do to help the team. Today, it was blocking shots, and he did what he could to help the team win.”

The Crimson Tide led Kentucky (12-6, 3-2) only 51-50 with 1:12 to play. Steele then missed a driving layup against Noel, but Jacobs put in the rebound.

Rodney Cooper later added a foul shot, Steele had one and Randolph two as Kentucky kept missing shots. The Wildcats had a stretch of 11:35 without a basket, and they didn’t hit one from 2:14 until Julius Mays sank a 3-pointer with 8.8 seconds to play. That only cut Alabama’s lead to 57-53, when the Tide appeared to have this one in hand.

Releford added a pair of foul shots, and Kentucky’s Noel slammed home a basket for the final points.

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Sports Illustrated’s early Top 25 football rankings has Tide at No. 1

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron leads the early-season No. 1 team in the Sports Illustrated rankings.(Copyright photo by Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily)

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron leads the early-season No. 1 team in the Sports Illustrated rankings.(Copyright photo by Gary Cosby Jr. of The Decatur Daily)

Mark Sept. 14 on your calendar … well, even more than you typically mark your calendar for an Alabama football weekend.

According to Sports Illustrated’s “Way-too-early” college football rankings, the top two teams in the country will play that day. SI has Alabama No. 1 in its rankings, and Texas A&M at No. 2. The Crimson Tide and Aggies will kick off in College Station, Texas, on Sept. 14.

Click here to see the whole top 25. Here’s a taste of what SI reporter Andy Staples has written: “Replacing Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker on the offensive line won’t be easy — even for a program that essentially selects 25 of the nation’s top 200 high school players each year. But if any team can overcome that loss, it’s Alabama. The Crimson Tide have proven themselves uniquely capable of reloading after national title runs. AJ McCarron showed in the BCS title game why he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he’ll still get to hand off to T.J. Yeldon and throw to Amari Cooper. Meanwhile, linebacker C.J. Mosley returns for his senior season. Even though everyone knows Mosley is one of the nation’s best at his position, he wants to prove to coach Nick Saban that he can be a full-time player. Such is the embarrassment of riches in Tuscaloosa. Even an elite talent can’t always get on the field.”

The Associated Press won’t release its preseason poll until August, but if the AP rankings mirror this set from SI, it will mark the first time since 1957 Texas A&M was ranked that high. Bear Bryant’s final Aggies team was No. 2 in the opening poll that year.

The school was No. 4 in 1993 and No. 3 in 1995. Those two seasons and 1957 are the only times Texas A&M has made the preseason top five.

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Alabama lands at No. 1 in national softball poll

Alabama celebrates after defeating Oklahoma to win the NCAA Women's College World Series on June 6, 2012.  (AP photo by Alonzo Adams)

Alabama celebrates after defeating Oklahoma to win the NCAA Women’s College World Series on June 6, 2012. (AP photo by Alonzo Adams)

Defending national champion Alabama landed at No. 1 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association/USA Today preseason poll.

The Crimson Tide received 25 of 31 possible first-place votes to take the top spot, while NCAA runner-up Oklahoma is No. 2 with five first-place votes. California is third and got the lone remaining vote for No. 1. Arizona State is fourth and Oregon fifth.

Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Georgia and LSU round out the top 10, respectively. Florida is 14th and Texas A&M 17th.

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AJ, Cooper Bateman at championship celebration

Alabama's AJ McCarron, left, with quarterback commitment Cooper Bateman. (Copyright photo by Carley Raybon)

Alabama’s AJ McCarron, left, with quarterback commitment Cooper Bateman. (Copyright photo by Carley Raybon)

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron had an interesting friend with him at the Crimson Tide’s national championship celebration Saturday: quarterback commit Cooper Bateman.

Alabama fan Carley Raybon managed to snap a photo of the two of them, and apparently, Bateman liked the picture so much he is using it as his Twitter icon now.

Carley was nice enough to allow us to use the photo on The Daily Bama Blog so you could get a look at it, too.

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AJ McCarron picks up another postseason honor

Alabama's AJ McCarron holds the coaches poll trophy after the BCS National Championship Game win. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Alabama’s AJ McCarron holds the coaches poll trophy after the BCS National Championship Game win. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron has received the College Football Performance Awards Quarterback Trophy, according to a release from the school.

He is in good company. Three other Alabama players have picked up CFPA honors in the past: Trent Richardson, Mark Barron and Javier Arenas.

McCarron was named second-team All-Southeastern Conference and  Associated Press third-team All-American.

McCarron led Alabama to back-to-back national championships, setting the school record for passing touchdowns in a season (30) and a career (49). As Alabama’s starting quarterback over the past two seasons, McCarron has compiled a 25-2 record with 46 touchdowns and eight interceptions. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he completed the SEC’s second-longest streak of 291 pass attempts without an interception.

In Alabama’s 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game, he completed 20 of 28 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns.

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Alabama vs. Kentucky, basketball game information

Anthony Grant upset at a referee. (AP photo by Rogelio V. Solis)

Anthony Grant upset at a referee. (AP photo by Rogelio V. Solis)

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa

Records: Alabama 11-6, 3-1 SEC, Kentucky 12-5, 3-1.

TV: ESPN.

Alabama lineup: G Trevor Lacey, 6-3, So., 12.5 ppg., 3.9 rpg., 3.6 assists; G Trevor Releford, 6-0, Jr., 16.2 ppg., 2.6 assists; F Levi Randolph, 6-5, So., 8.3 ppg., 4.1 rpg.; F Rodney Cooper, 6-6, So., 11.6 ppg., 4.1 rpg.; C Moussa Gueye, 7-0, Jr., 1.0 ppg., 4.3 rpg.

Kentucky lineup: G Ryan Harrow, 6-2, So., 10.4 ppg., 2.7 rpg.; G Archie Goodwin, 6-4 1/2, Fr., 15.0 ppg., 4.9 rpg., 3.4 assists; G Julius Mays, 6-2, Sr., 8.4 ppg., 2.6 rpg., 2.9 assists; F Nerlens Noel, 6-10, Fr., 10.8 ppg., 9.2 rpg., 4.1 blocks; F Alex Poythress, 6-7, Fr., 13.1 ppg., 6.4 rpg.

Noteworthy: In the SEC, Kentucky has lost at home to Texas A&M and beaten Tennessee at home and Auburn and Vanderbilt on the road. … Kentucky 7-foot-0 freshman Willie Cauley-Stein (7.6 ppg., 5.8 rpg.) missed Saturday’s game because of a knee procedure Thursday and will sit out tonight’s game, too. He did not make the trip to Tuscaloosa. … The Wildcats’ Harrow spent his freshman season at North Carolina State before transferring and sitting out last year. … Kentucky’s Mays spent two years at N.C. State, two years at Wright State and has joined the Wildcats this season as a graduate student. … Alabama has won three straight, beating Tennessee, Mississippi State and Texas A&M and shooting 62.7 percent combined in the second halves of those games. … In the Ratings Percentage Index figures compiled by KenPom.com, Alabama is No. 70 nationally, while Kentucky is No. 16. … Alabama ranks second in the SEC by allowing 59.1 points a game. … Lacey leads the SEC in 3-point percentage at 45.5 percent this season.

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