Tag Archives: Anthony Grant

Anthony Grant on the SEC

Alabama head basketball coach Anthony Grant addresses the media during his season wrap-up press conference, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)

Alabama head basketball coach Anthony Grant addresses the media during his season wrap-up press conference, Wednesday, April 2, 2014, at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)

The SEC has been considered a weak basketball conference in recent year. Only three teams made the NCAA tournament.

Two of them, however, are in the Final Four with Florida and Kentucky. So is the conference can’t be that weak?

Most inside the SEC feels more teams should have made the conference. Alabama coach Anthony Grant was very outspoken about the SEC on Wednesday.

“I think yeah that’s been talked about for the last several years,” he said of the weak conference. “You look at this year’s tournament, Florida gets the No. 1 overall seed and the second-place team, Kentucky, gets an eight seed, and I think the fourth-place team in Tennessee has a play in game. Obviously all three teams had success advancing to at least the Sweet 16. I think you look at the other teams in our league that had opportunities to go to the NIT, none of them went in as a one seed.”

Grant went on about what to do to change the perception of the SEC.  Note the length of the answer. He never talks that much in response to anything. So he must be very passionate about the view of the SEC.

“So I think the perception of our league, whether you feel like it’s warranted or not, as coaches, we have to look at it and self evaluate and say, ‘Yeah our league needs to get stronger, needs to get better.’ The only thing that each of us can do is look within. At least that’s what I try to do. And how can we get better, how can we improve our teams and improve the reputation or standing of our league?”

“And that’s what we’re trying to do and that’s one of the reasons why, for us, last year, we played one of the top five nonconference schedules in the country, to try to put ourselves and our league in a position where we can all elevate the reputation, the status of our league.”

“But as always what you have to do when you do this is you have to win. That’s what it comes down to. When you do that, obviously you improve the overall standing and reputation of your league. In spite of the troubles that we had last year in terms of the results, the win-loss record, we still finished as one of the top 100 teams in the country in RPI, despite the losses. I think for us, to do our part, we’ve got to continue to play an extremely competitive nonconference schedule. I think what we’ll need in our league is for all the teams to understand how we can help each other and be willing to go out and challenge ourselves.”

“Like I talked about with our team a lot, as a coach, I’m not afraid to fail. I’m not afraid to put ourselves out there. Because I understand the vision I have, I understand where we want to take this program and what needs to happen in order for us to be able to do that. And we’ve got to be willing to go out and do that. So I think as a league, we have to be willing to do that.”

“And you can argue, everybody’s got their opinion, which league is the best in the country, this league gets six teams in, this league gets four teams in or five, and the SEC only deserve two, three, for or whatever. Right now we’ve got two teams in our league that are playing for a national championship, that are in the Final Four. So it’s an opportunity for all of us in the league to try to raise the profile individually and then do that collectively for our league. I think that’s the goal every coach wants to try and accomplish.”

Anthony Grant will return next season

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant calls a play against LSU during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo)

Alabama head coach Anthony Grant calls a play against LSU during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the second round of the Southeastern Conference men’s tournament, Thursday, March 13, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo)

Alabama athletic director Bill Battle has heard the fan disenchantment with men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant this season.

He tired to calm the constituents through his blog posts, asking for understanding of the rebuilding job he’s doing.

After the season ended with a first-game loss to LSU in the SEC tournament on Thursday, Battle met with Grant on Friday to give him his support.

He then made it public with another blog post, saying Grant will be back next season. Read more here.

“Coach Grant has earned the chance to continue building this program into the winner that we all know it should be,” Battle said. “He’s done it before. He can do it again.”

Anthony Grant working for charity

Alabama coach Anthony Grant gestures during his team's NCAA college basketball game against Robert Morris on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)

Alabama coach Anthony Grant gestures during his team’s NCAA college basketball game against Robert Morris on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo)

Alabama men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant is participating in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama for the chance to win $100,000 for the charity.

The program pits 48 National Association of Basketball Coaches NCAA Division I coaches in a fan-vote challenge, with the total Infiniti contribution exceeding $300,000. Fan participation will determine the winner duirng an eight-week period that began Monday by registering and voting on a custom microsite on www.ESPN.com/Infiniti.

For the first six weeks, four brackets of 12 coaches will be paired against each other, with the winners from each group moving on to the next round in week seven and the final round in week eight. Fans can vote for one coach per region per day. The winning coach will be announced March 16, 2014.

“It is a privilege to again be a part of the Infiniti Coaches Challenge,” Grant said in a press release. “This is for a great cause and it is something that has special meaning for me. Both my wife and I have worked closely with the Boys & Girls Club of West Alabama and we are happy to provide support and assistance to our community and this particular organization.”

Infiniti, which is a corporate partner of NCAA men’s basketball and the NABC, will donate $5,000 to each of the participating charities and award $100,000 to the winning coach’s charity. 

Grant talks recruits

Check out the video interview of Alabama men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant talking about his recruiting class he signed Wednesday.

“The biggest thing with all three of the guys is they are high-character guys,” Grant said.

An important facet of the recruits is they are the top two guys in the state. They will play with passion for their local university.

Grant is done recruiting for this earlier period. He’s full with his scholarship allotment.

Alabama makes tornado donation

The Alabama and Oklahoma men’s basketball programs will each make a $10,000 donation to the United Way of Norman, Okla., as part of an effort to provide support in the wake of the tornado that leveled parts of Moore, Okla., earlier this year.

The $20,000 donation will be announced when the two teams meet at half court prior to Friday contest to give the check to a United Way representative. The Sooners and Crimson Tide will play at 4 p.m. in Dallas in the opening game of the Buckets and Boots Showcase.

When this game was first arranged back in June, Alabama coach Anthony Grant offered to donate a portion of Alabama’s event proceeds to OU’s charity of choice for tornado relief. Grant witnessed the devastation from an EF4 tornado that hit the University of Alabama two years ago.

Check out the above video of Grant and F Nick Jacobs previewing the Oklahoma game to open the season on Friday.

Hoops exhibitions tonight

Alabama coach Anthony Grant talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball media day in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Alabama coach Anthony Grant talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball media day in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The Alabama men’s basketball team plays its only exhibition game of the season at 7 p.m. tonight against West Georgia in Coleman Coliseum.

Check out my season preview in Monday’s TimesDaily and Decatur Daily. And here’s the game preview box.

WEST GEORGIA AT ALABAMA

WHEN: 7 p.m. today

WHERE: Coleman Coliseum

RECORDS: West Georgia (0-0, 0-0 Gulf South), Alabama (0-0, 0-0 SEC)

ON THE AIR: Radio — None

WEST GEORGIA LINEUP: G Phillip Flowers (6-5, Sr.) 7.0 ppg; G Ryan Godfrey (6-3, Sr.) 6.0 ppg; F Lavon Gray (6-5, Sr.) 4.0 ppg; F Stephan Thompson (6-4, Jr.) 4.0 ppg; G Thomas Higginbotham (5-8, Jr.) 0.0 ppg.

ALABAMA LINEUP: G Trevor Releford (6-0, Sr.) 14.9 ppg; G Rodney Cooper (6-6, Jr.) 10.2 ppg; G Retin Obasohan (6-1, So.) 3.9 ppg; F Nick Jacobs (6-8, Jr.) 7.6 ppg; C Carl Engstrom (7-1. Jr.) 1.0 ppg.

NOTEWORTHY: This is a non-counting exhibition game against a Division II team. … This is the first meeting between the two teams. … West Georgia already played an exhibition game, and lost to Jacksonville State 65-52 last Thursday, and were 9-18 last season. … Releford is on the watch list for the Bob Cousy Collegiate Point Guard of the Year Award. … Alabama coach Anthony Grant is 14 wins shy of winning his 100th game for the Crimson Tide. He’s 86-52 with Alabama after four seasons.

Here are some leftover quotes from men’s coach Anthony Grant from his preseason press conference.

On how to improve the offense:

“The thing I talk about with the players is we want to put ourselves in position to win games. Our guys have to play both ends. We try not to compartmentalize it. We have basketball players. We want to be a team that plays our identity on both ends of the floor.”

How did the European trip help?

“For (newcomers) Algie (Key), Shannon (Hale) and Jimmie (Taylor) it was invaluable experience to get acclimated with their teammates. The advantage of having days of practice and then competition, the bonding time with the team put us ahead of the curve to start practice. As a coach, we weren’t as rushed at that time of year because of the familiarity the guys have the system. It helped us from that standpoint.”

Thoughts on two SEC teams in the preseason poll? And Alabama isn’t one of them.

“I don’t put a lot of stock into that. If you go back historically of polls, they are people’s opinion before everything gets started. Nobody goes back and looks at the beginning of the year poll and call the guy an idiot because he’s wrong. So we don’t look at it.”

The women’s team plays its exhibition game at 7 p.m. tonight against West Alabama in Foster Auditorium. It’s the first look at first-year coach Kristy Curry‘s team.

Men’s hoops at SEC media day

Alabama coach Anthony Grant talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball media day in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Alabama coach Anthony Grant talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference NCAA college basketball media day in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

BIRMINGHAM — Being the home team for the day, the Alabama men’s basketball team drew a crowd at the SEC media day Thursday.

Coach Anthony Grant gave the rundown of the team,  talked SEC decisions and about opponents Arkansas and South Carolina. Check out the the video of the first half of his media session below.

Highlights include junior guard Levi Randolph out indefinitely from his knee injury suffered last Saturday at practice, but surgery is not expected at the moment.

“The good thing is we don’t think it’s any structural damage,” Grant said. “It’s just some bone bruising that is going to take time to heal.”

“Levi is doing good,” point guard Trevor Releford said. “He’s taking it day by day and doing rehab right now. He’ll be ready.”

Junior forward Dakota Slaughter was awarded a scholarship to bring the team up to 12 of the 13 scholarships allowed a year. Two players, however, are ineligible from NCAA transfer rules.

Grant is looking for JC transfer guard Algie Key to make a big impact, and he’s relying on his key returners such as forward Nick Jacobs, guard Rodney Cooper, Releford and Randolph to carry the team.

“We have a lot of guys I’m excited about,” Grant said. “We have better guards on the team. I’m excited about the makeup of our team and the challenge in front of us.”

Releford said the offseason conditioning helped him lose 10-plus pounds to be better prepared for the season. Jacobs is another player who made use of the offseason program with about 15-20 pound lost.

“You’ll see Nick a lot different,” Releford said. “He’s in good shape. His body changed. He’s more of an offensive threat. I expect more from him.”

The season starts off Nov. 8 in Dallas against Oklahoma, and there’s a home exhibition game against West Georgia on Nov. 4. The players are scrambling to be prepared, but feel the European trip with five games played in August helped them get ready earlier.

“Practice is going good,” Releford said. “Everybody is buying in and working hard. It’s very competitive. I think every day we are taking steps forward as a team to be where (Grant) wants to be.”

Check out more of what Releford had to say Thursday in the below video.

Video: Anthony Grant’s season wrap-up press conference

Notebook: Trevor Lacey’s parents initiated transfer conversations

Former Alabama guard Trevor Lacey was released from his scholarship and has elected to transfer elsewhere. (AP photo)

Former Alabama guard Trevor Lacey was released from his scholarship and has elected to transfer elsewhere. (AP photo)

Countless times after the season is over, players declare their intentions to leave their schools: for the NBA Draft, for higher competition in a better conference, for more playing time at a lower level, a multitude of reasons.

For former Alabama guard Trevor Lacey, it was none of the above.

“Probably about a week ago, two weeks ago, his mom and dad came in and met with me and expressed a desire for him to have that option to transfer,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. “So, I talked to them and they expressed, for them, where he was in terms of the opportunities that he had here, where he was in terms of his overall development.

“After I met with them, Trevor came in and we all met together and I think his thing was he understood where his parents were coming from….this past weekend, they met as a family and he came back on Tuesday and said that, as a family, that’s what they thought was in their best interest.”

Grant wished Lacey the best as he goes for an undetermined location.

“I think, for some of them, the opportunity to see it all from a different perspective helps, so I hope that’s what happens for him and I certainly wish him the best of luck,” Grant said.

Filling in

The search for the replacements, however, is one Grant foresees going well.

“I think any time you have change, there’s a chance for a guy to step up,” Grant said.

In the frontcourt, all signs point to center Carl Engstrom, who’s recovery from a torn ACL in early December got high remarks from Grant on his recovery.

“The doctors said that Carl’s ability to get himself back to get ready to play is probably top five that they’ve seen coming off of the injury that he had: not top five percent, top five period,” Grant said. “That’s a testament to his work ethic. By our last team workout, he was able to go through contact drills with our guys. That’s remarkable.

“When you look at him and Nick Jacobs in the frontcourt, plus the new guys we’re bringing in, Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale, I think it gives us a nice nucleus in the frontcourt.”

The clear candidate to fill the empty minutes in the backcourt was the Most Improved Player as voted by the coaches, Retin Obasohan, but as the leader of a committee.

“I thought by the end of the year, Retin Obasohan had really stepped up to the opportunity given to him,” Grant said. “We’ve got a guy like Rodney Cooper, who had to play a lot of four last year, and now he can swing back to more of his natural position on the wing.”

Now hiring

It has been more than just players leaving the Crimson Tide program in the five weeks that have passed since the end of the season, Alabama lost an assistant coach as well.

“We lost a staff member, and a dear friend of mine, a guy that is very, very dear to me in Dan Hipsher,” Grant said. “He got an opportunity to be the head coach at Texas-Pan American and on one hand you’re very happy for him and excited for the opportunity he has, but on the other hand, it’s almost like losing a family member.”

Hipsher’s four years on Grant’s staff was a reunion for the two, after Hipsher recruited Grant to the Dayton Flyers out of high school.

“For me, personally, he’s a guy that gave me an opportunity when I was a 16-year-old kid down in Miami when he was an assistant coach at Dayton when he came down and recruited me,” Grant said. “He gave me an opportunity to play college basketball and get an education and that was something I was always thankful for.”

The search for Hipsher’s replacement has not been a priority of Grant’s, as one of the heaviest recruiting seasons has taken priority.

“We’ve been pretty hectic since the season ended,” Grant said. “What I’ve done right now is kind of put that on hold. I think we’ve got enough in the office that we can manage what we’re doing right now.

“We’re very fortunate with the staff we have in right now, so I feel like I can kind of take my time to make the right decision so we get the right piece in.”

Filling out the 2013-2014 slate

Looking away from the future roster and towards the rosters to be faced, Grant laid out a pretty impressive lineup of teams Alabama will be battling in next season’s Preseason NIT: Duke, Arizona and Rutgers.

Grant said the rest of the schedule is rather fluid, with some exceptions like a return trip from Texas Tech, but some other games have yet to be filled.

C Moussa Gueye transferring away from Alabama

The University of Alabama released a statement confirming numerous media reports that center Moussa Gueye, a senior in 2013-2014, will transfer away from the Crimson Tide for his final season of college basketball.

Gueye, the seven-footer from Dakar, Senegal, averaged 15.4 minutes per game last season, scoring 1.4 points per game and tallying 52 blocks on

Moussa Gueye

Moussa Gueye

the year (1.5 per game).

“I really enjoyed my time at Alabama,” Gueye said in the statement. “People have been very supportive during my two years here. Since I have my degree, I just decided I wanted to leave and try and continue to get better. I love my coaches and teammates – they helped me get better. I have nothing but great memories here and I am grateful for my decision to come to the University of Alabama.”

Gueye played in 48 games as a two-year member of the Crimson Tide, one of those years cut short by a knee injury, and finished with 163 rebounds.

“We’re proud of Moussa for completing his degree in two years and for his efforts and contributions to our basketball program,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. “Moussa has decided to pursue other options for his final year of eligibility and will seek to transfer to another institution. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

Gueye will be eligible to play next season without sitting out if he goes to a school that has a graduate program that the University of Alabama does not offer. Speculation has come that Gueye may go to Texas-Pan American, following former Alabama assisstant head coach Dan Hipsher, who left the Capstone to take the head coach job there.

Coaches, peers speak out for Moore

Former Alabama athletic director Mal Moore congratulating head football coach Nick Saban on winning the 2012 SEC Championship Game. (AP photo)

Former Alabama athletic director Mal Moore congratulating head football coach Nick Saban on winning the 2012 SEC Championship Game. (AP photo)

This morning, accompanying a statement regarding the nomination of Bill Battle, Alabama sent numerous coaches and peers expressing their thoughts on former Alabama athletic director Mal Moore. Here are the highlights.

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban: “Coach Moore is somebody that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. First, for giving us the opportunity to come to the University of Alabama and the great job he did on selling us on this University and what could be done here. Then, all of the support he has given to our program. He certainly deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the success we have had because of the way he sets the table and serves us so well. Most things that you would see, he has had some hand in making all of the athletic facilities what they are, first class in so many ways. More than that, he is a class gentleman, probably as fine as you are ever going to meet. He has been a great friend and his support has certainly been appreciated . . . He has been a part of a lot of championships and a lot of championship teams in this department as a coach was well as an athletic director.”

Alabama head gymnastics coach Sarah Patterson (won four of six national championships with Moore as AD): “Mal’s biggest strength throughout his career as both a coach and an administrator has always been his love of Alabama. There is no one that loves this University more than Mal Moore. Just like his coaching career, his time as Athletics Director has been marked by championships. He has taken us when times were hard and built us back up into the powerhouse program of today. He has attracted great coaches to the Capstone and given them the tools to bring championships back to our campus. While I am sad that his time as athletics director has come to an end, I am thrilled that he is taking this time to focus on his health and getting better and I am very much looking forward to the time when he returns to work with Dr. Bonner to make our great institution even better.”

Alabama head men’s basketball coach Anthony Grant: “I am saddened to learn of coach (Mal) Moore’s decision to step aside as our leader and A.D. I appreciate the opportunity that he has provided for myself and my family and will be ever grateful to him for his confidence and faith in our ability to lead this program to a championship level. No one has a greater passion for this University and athletics department than Coach Moore and we are thankful for the example of class and integrity he exemplifies. We certainly wish him the best and look forward to his tenure as Athletics Director Emeritus.”

Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard.

Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard.

Alabama baseball coach Mitch Gaspard: “Coach Moore has always been a man of great character and class. He is someone that that we all look up to and he’s been a great leader of our athletic department. His character, leadership and class are things we try to instill in our program. He’s a guy you can trust and he’s been very supportive of our program. He’s been able to put his fingerprints all over this athletic department and the University of Alabama, not only through its success, but in how that success has been created. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Moore and his family as he battles through his current health situation.”

Alabama head men’s golf coach Jay Seawell (hired by Moore in 2002, national runner-up last season): “It is a sad day for me personally. I’m at the University of Alabama because of Coach Moore. I think Coach Moore is the heartbeat of Crimson Tide athletics. You can look at our athletics department as a whole, not just football, it has probably never been in better shape, from facilities to what has been accomplished on the field of play. Coach Moore is a true leader and one that has inspired me. We are praying for a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back on campus.”

Alabama head women’s golf coach Mic Potter (won the national championship last year): “On a personal level, I am eternally indebted to Coach Moore because he gave me the opportunity to come here and accomplish the things that we have. He hired me and then gave us the resources to be successful. It is hard for me to imagine working for anyone else right now. When championships are won, you think about the players and the coaches, you don’t tend to think of Coach Moore, Dr. Bonner, Dr. Witt and Kevin Almond and what the administration means to the process we go through to be as competitive as we are. He was also directly responsible for us having the facilities – the Jerry Pate Golf Center – and being willing to make an investment in our program through facilities and his foresight in what a golf program needs. Coach Moore has certainly had a lot to with us being successful. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a golf enthusiast, and my only wish is that he will return to good health and get to play a little more golf now that he is in a different capacity.”

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long: “Mal Moore has left an indelible mark on the University of Alabama, much like Frank Broyles has done here at Arkansas, and the Crimson Tide Athletic Program has achieved tremendous success under Mal’s leadership. I have enjoyed getting to know him and working with him over the past five years and appreciate the manner in which he welcomed me to the circle of SEC Athletic Directors. I will miss Mal on a professional and personal level and wish him the very best as he focuses on his recovery.”

Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman.

Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman.

Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman: “I looked at Mal as the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. He was always even keel and very rarely did he get flustered. Mal always did what was right for University of Alabama, but he never lost sight that Alabama was in the SEC, therefore he constantly championed the importance of a strong conference. We will miss a true professional and wonderful colleague.”

Alabama’s hot stretches outweigh cold enough to move on in NIT

Alabama guard Trevor Lacey battling to keep possession in the Crimson Tide's 62-43 win over Northeastern. Alabama moves on to the second round of the NIT with the victory. (AP photo)

Alabama guard Trevor Lacey battling to keep possession in the Crimson Tide’s 62-43 win over Northeastern. Alabama moves on to the second round of the NIT with the victory. (AP photo)

The final straw for Alabama’s NCAA Tournament hopes, the loss in the SEC Tournament semifinals to Florida, hinged on a clutch second half run that not only sealed Alabama’s fate for the National Invitational Tournament, but also for several other losses along the way.

The Crimson Tide attacked – with reckless abandon – the Northeastern defense to make a second half run of its own for once, a 22-0 spurt that consumed eight of the final 20 minutes in Alabama’s 62-43 win.

“We were concerned, when you look at their numbers and what they’ve done in their league, that we had to do a really good job defensively,” Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. “The thing that’s really scary about this team is you look at their last three games they played, and they were in double-digits holes in all three games and they had opportunities to win them.”

“I thought because guys stayed aggressive on the offensive end, we were able to win comfortably.”

Alabama’s aggressiveness even bested its own gameplan. Two of the biggest plays of the game, baseline dribble-drive slam dunks from sophomore guard Levi Randolph on back-to-back possessions, were not by design.

“They were just making plays,” Grant said.

Randolph added, “I was in the corner, and Trevor (Releford) found me on the drive. I was just able to rip through, I had a nice seal by Moussa (Gueye) on the baseline and I was just able to go up and finish it.”

But the excitement, as it has all season long, came with an equal number of scares. After starting the game on a 24-9 run, Alabama let the Huskies piece together a 9-2 run to bring the game within reach at halftime.

“All-of-a-sudden for them to go on that run like they did, I thought a lot of it was what we weren’t doing,” Grant said. “Not taking anything away from Northeastern, but from that standpoint, I don’t think we did a good job learning the lessons that we needed to learn.”

At the end of the night, Alabama’s win was enough to satisfy its leaders.

“Coming out of the half, we challenged them to step it back up and get back to what allowed us to get the lead in the first place,” Grant said.

Satisfy, not please. Grant is adamant about his team’s demeanor in those slumps that turned a early blowout into a hotly-contested battle at the break.

“As a team, we have to get beyond that,” Grant said. “That’s the maturity I’m looking for from our guys, to stop letting that happen, to stop allowing that to happen. Obviously you can’t always control what the other team does, but let’s not do it to ourselves.”

Alabama (21-12) left out of NCAA Tournament

As expected after the loss to Florida in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament on Saturday, the Crimson Tide was not selected as one of the 38 at-large teams to play in the NCAA Tournament.

The SEC had three teams in the tournament: Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss. Alabama was 0-4 against those teams, 0-3 on the road and 0-1 in neutral sites.

Other Alabama opponents in the NCAA tournament include Cincinnati, Villanova and South Dakota State, teams which Alabama went 2-1 against.

Alabama was eliminated in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament in a loss to Creighton, who moved on to lose to No. 1 seed North Carolina in the next round.

Alabama was left out of the 2011 NCAA Tournament and went on to advance to the finals of the NIT that season, beating Coastal Carolina, New Mexico and Miami (FL) in Coleman Coliseum before moving to Madison Square Garden.

The Tide beat Colorado in the semifinals 62-61 before losing in the finals to Wichita State 66-57 in the finals.

Full Story: Florida catches fire in second half, ends Alabama’s SEC championship bid one game early

Alabama forward Nick Jacobs was leading the team with nine points at halftime and finished with 11. (Photo courtesy of UA Athletics)

Alabama forward Nick Jacobs was leading the team with nine points at halftime and finished with 11. (Photo courtesy of UA Athletics)

Here is the full Associated Press story from Nashville from Alabama’s 61-51 loss to Florida in the semifinals of the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament. You can also click here to view the boxscore.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Florida finally showed it can win a close game. All it takes is for senior guard Kenny Boynton to answer his coach’s challenge.

Held scoreless for the first 25 minutes, Boynton had 11 straight points during a critical 15-0 run Saturday as No. 13 Florida erased a 10-point, second-half deficit to beat Alabama 61-51 in a Southeastern Conference semifinal.

Boynton said he benefited from Gators coach Billy Donovan’s halftime message to him. The senior guard’s second-half surge helped Florida end its season-long frustration in close games.

“He challenged me to come out and play with confidence,” Boynton said. “Honestly he did challenge me, and I think I tried to step up to it.”

The top-seeded Gators (26-6) advanced to the championship game Sunday against Mississippi or Vanderbilt. Alabama (21-12), the tournament’s No. 4 seed, will spend Sunday waiting to learn its fate from the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Most mock brackets had Alabama on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble at the start of the week. Alabama went 12-6 in conference play during the regular season but hurt its cause by going 1-5 in December, including home nonconference losses to Mercer and Tulane.

“I’ll just go to sleep, wake up tomorrow and see what they choose,” Alabama guard Trevor Releford said. “Whatever they choose, we go from there.”

Boynton scored all 16 of his points during a 7-minute span. Patric Young had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Gators. Mike Rosario added 10 points. Releford scored 12 points, and Nick Jacobs and Trevor Lacey each added 11 for Alabama.

Alabama led 37-27 with 16:05 remaining before Florida reeled off 15 straight points over the next 5 minutes. In the lone regular-season meeting between the two teams, Florida rallied from eight points down in the final 12½ minutes to win 64-52 on March 2 in Gainesville.

That 64-52 result represented Florida’s narrowest margin of victory all season before Saturday. The Gators entered Saturday leading the nation in scoring margin (plus-18.9), but they’re 0-5 in games decided by six points or fewer.

“We know that to win out games in the NCAA tournament, games are going to be close, so we have to consistently close out games,” Boynton said.

This game featured the SEC’s two best scoring defenses, with Florida (53.4) and Alabama (58.9) allowing fewer than 60 points per game. And it started out as a defensive struggle. Seven minutes into the game, Florida led 6-2.

But after missing four of its first five shots and committing four turnovers in the first 5½ minutes, Alabama’s offense found a rhythm.

The Crimson Tide shot 55 percent (11 of 20) in the first half against a Florida team that hadn’t allowed anyone to shoot 50 percent or better this season.

The Tide stayed hot early in the second half and extended its lead to 37-27 when Releford sank two free throws with 16:05 remaining.

“We were playing good defense,” Young said. “They were knocking down some tough twos, some tough threes. But we knew they can’t hold that up the whole (game) because they haven’t been doing that the whole year. It’s been tough for them to score in the halfcourt the whole season.”

That’s when Boynton took over the game.

Boynton entered the day shooting just 38.9 percent, making him a subject of criticism for much of his senior season. Boynton shot 1 of 7 and scored two points Friday in an SEC quarterfinal victory over LSU, but he didn’t get down on himself and maintained the support of his teammates.

“Our team loves Kenny Boynton,” Donovan said. “When people watch and the ball doesn’t go in the basket, it’s very, very easy to point fingers and be critical. But I would say that maybe of anybody on our team, Kenny Boynton is truly loved inside of our team. He’s a great teammate. He does want to win. He wants to make every shot he takes. He doesn’t intentionally try to miss. But he’s gone through a little bit of a tough shooting period.”

That tough period might have ended Saturday.

First, the senior guard made a pair of free throws to cut Alabama’s lead to 37-31. Next, he made a driving basket. Then, Boynton sank a 3-pointer. He followed that up with a fast-break layup that gave Florida the lead. Boynton closed this stunning flurry by going into the paint and making a shot off the glass that extended Florida’s advantage to 40-37 with 12:02 remaining.

“My teammates found me in transition,” Boynton said. “Basically, I didn’t get more aggressive or anything. The floor just opened up more.”

Boynton added a basket that put Florida ahead 47-40 with 9:40 left and a 3-pointer that made 50-42 with 8:11 remaining. Alabama wouldn’t cut the margin below four points the rest of the way.

“This was a grind-it-out game,” Rosario said. “This was a 40-minute game. Guys knew Kenny needed to step up for us in the second half. I felt he took on that challenge. When that run happened, it just fed off positive energy to all (his) teammates. I felt everyone on the team embraced that.”

Full Story: Releford, Randolph push Alabama to SEC Tournament semifinals

Trevor Releford had 14 points in Alabama's win in the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament quarterfinals over Tennessee. (AP photo)

Trevor Releford had 14 points in Alabama’s win in the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals over Tennessee. (AP photo)

Here’s the AP report from Alabama’s 58-48 win over Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday. The win gave the Crimson Tide the right to face Florida at noon CST on Saturday with a berth in the SEC Championship Game on the line. There are also a couple of quotes from postgame at the bottom of the post.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Levi Randolph scored 15 points Friday as No. 4 seed Alabama defeated No. 5 seed Tennessee 58-48 in a Southeastern Conference tournament quarterfinal between two teams seeking to improve their postseason credentials.

Alabama (21-11) advanced to a Saturday semifinal against No. 13 Florida, the tournament’s top seed. Florida (25-6) trounced LSU 80-58 in its quarterfinal.

This game was considered one of the most intriguing of the day because both teams are considered to be on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Tennessee and Alabama had split two close regular-season meetings, with Alabama winning 68-65 at Tuscaloosa on Jan. 12 and the Vols surviving 54-53 in the Jan. 26 rematch at Knoxville. This game followed a similar pattern, as neither team pulled ahead by more than five points in a first half that featured three ties and four lead changes.

Alabama pulled away in the second half by wearing Tennessee down with its pressure defense.

Tennessee (20-12) shot 32.1 percent (18 of 56) overall, 50 percent (7 of 14) on free throws and 21.7 percent (5 of 23) on 3-pointers. After making six of its first seven shots Friday, Tennessee went 12 of 49 the rest of the way.

Trevor Releford scored 14 points for Alabama, which shot 41.3 percent (19 of 46), 78.9 percent (15 of 19) on free throws and 50 percent (5 of 10) from 3-point range. Nick Jacobs had six points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

Josh Richardson scored 16 points for Tennessee, which lost for just the second time in its last 11 games. Jarnell Stokes added 12 points and 13 rebounds for his 15th double-double of the season, the most by a
Tennessee player since Bernard King had 19 in 1976-77.

Tennessee star Jordan McRae had been averaging 24.6 points over his last seven games, but he scored just nine points and shot 3 of 13 Friday while struggling with foul trouble.

The Vols made six of their first seven shots and went on an early 9-0 run to grab a 13-8 lead, but they cooled off from there as Alabama quickly caught up.

Alabama had plenty of success driving to the basket early on with Releford and redshirt freshman Retin Obasohan, a reserve guard who hadn’t even played in the Tide’s two regular-season games with Tennessee.

Tennessee lost the lead by getting too dependent on its perimeter attack. The Vols attempted nearly as many 3-point shots (13) as two-pointers (14) in the first half.

The Vols trailed 44-41 midway through the second half when Trae Golden and Armani Moore missed potential game-tying 3-pointers. Alabama followed with a 6-0 run to seize the momentum and grab a 50-41 advantage. Jacobs made consecutive baskets and McRae picked up his fourth foul during that critical spurt.

Tennessee responded with five straight points to cut Alabama’s lead to 50-46, but that’s as close as the Vols would get.

Also, a couple of quotes from postgame.

Alabama coach Anthony Grant: “You have to take your hat off to Tennessee. I thought they came in to this game playing great basketball right now as a team, and we knew we would have to come out and compete at a high level today. I’m really proud of our guys for answering that bell. It was a highly contested game, physical game, a game of inches, and it’s a good win.”

Junior point guard Trevor Releford: “I think we are really successful when we get out in transition, just play up-tempo, push the ball and try to get easy layups. We tried to do that today. For the most part it worked.”