Coming off of a pair of tough losses, the Alabama men's basketball rebounded to close out the regular season with a 61-58 win over Georgia on a Trevor Releford half-court three-point basket at the buzzer on Senior Day in Coleman Coliseum. Releford led the Tide offensively with 19 points while sophomore forward Nick Jacobs chipped in 11 points and five rebounds.
"I guess you want drama involved in the 100th year reunion," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "So many people returning to the Capstone and I'm just happy we won the game. Obviously, we knew Georgia was going to continue to fight."
Alabama finishes the regular season at 20-11 overall and 12-6 in Southeastern Conference play, which marks the third-straight 20-win season for the Tide. It is the first time since the 1990, 91 and 92 seasons that UA has had three consecutive 20-win seasons.
Alabama tied Georgia in free throw attempts with 17 for the game, continuing a winning trend when the Tide either has the same or more free throw attempts than the opposition. Alabama is 12-0 in the SEC and 19-3 overall in those cases.
The Tide started the game with a 13-3 run, keyed by perfect 5-for-5 shooting and a pair of three-point buckets by Releford. Alabama was hot throughout the first twenty minutes, shooting 45 percent from beyond the three-point arc and the floor and 6-of-7 from the free-throw line to build a 14-point lead at the half.
"I felt like in the second half they really picked their tempo up and really attacked us," Grant said. "The zone caused us some problems. We struggled to find consistency against the zone. We were able to finally get a few baskets off drives and attacking the rim, but we really struggled to get anything from a consistency standpoint."
The Bulldogs tied the game late on a layup and a three-pointer off a missed foul shot. Georgia had the opportunity to win the game at the end, but were stopped by the Tide defense. Releford fired a three pointer from half-court as time expired, and sank it to give Alabama the victory. Although the Bulldogs tied it up at the end, the Tide never relinquished the lead for the duration of the game.
"We had a lot of breakdowns in the end, but thankfully, on the last possession, we locked in and we got a stop," Grant said. "It was just a good heads-up play by (Trevor) Releford, to be aware of what he had. When we got the ball, I tried to look at the shot clock to see if we needed to call a time. I felt like, ‘Okay, we are going to go into overtime here.' And then when he lets it go, you look at the trajectory and I said it's got a chance, and luckily for us, it went in. It was a big time shot and a great ending."
Alabama received excellent production from its bench, which contributed 23 of 61 points for the Tide in the game. The bench production was led by Jacobs, who finished with eleven points. The Alabama guards played a key role as well, picking up eight steals as part of 16 turnovers forced by the Tide in the game.