November 23, 2007

Tide pulls out thriller

Whatever demons led to Alabama's basketball team shooting just 56 percent from the free-throw line through three games this season, Alonzo Gee did his part to exorcise them Friday night.

Alabama (3-1) pulled out a 79-77 home win over Southern Miss, and with the game tied at 77 with 0.5 seconds remaining, it was Gee who buried two from the line to ice the game.

"We spend a lot of time in practice at the free throw line," Gee said. "We do a lot of free-throw shooting - a lot."

Gee was 11 for 11 from the free-throw line en route to a team-high 25-point game.

Gottfried said he normally would have instructed Gee to miss the second free throw, forcing Southern Miss to try a length-of-the-floor shot. Instead, Gee made both shots, Southern Miss called timeout and got off a 3-point attempt that rattled the rim at the buzzer.

"We talked about it, but here was my thinking on that - we haven't spent a lot of time working on that. In the future we would do that. If I had a timeout to use after the first [free throw], I do that," Gottfried said. "But I didn't want to plant the seed in his head about missing [one]."

As a team, UA connected on 27 of 37 free throws (73%), its best effort of the season. UA never trailed.

Richard Hendrix scored 20 on 7-of-12 shooting, and added a team-high 11 rebounds. Mykal Riley added 15 as the only other UA player in double figures. Defensively, the Crimson Tide had no answer for Southern Miss guard Jeremy Wise, who scored a game-high 33, including five 3-pointers.

Gottfried tried several different defenses and personnel combinations. UA opened with man defense, then changed to a zone, then employed full-court pressure in the final minutes of the first half to stretch a slim lead to 38-31. Substitutions also came early and often, with 10 players seeing first-half action. Brandon Hollinger played 27 minutes off the bench, and nine of 10 available players logged at least 10 minutes.

"We're searching for the right substitutions," Gottfried said. "If you've got a guy not playing defense the way I want them to, I've told them they're coming out. We've got to have a commitment there. And I wanted to get Justin Knox in there early tonight. Sometimes the longer you wait, the harder it is to get them in."

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