Tide erases 18-point second-half deficit to advance

Jason Galloway

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When the Alabama men’s basketball team found itself down 18 points in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday, with less than 12 minutes remaining, head coach Anthony Grant gave his team a goal.

“At the 12-minute media timeout… the goal was by the eight-minute mark to get it under [10],” Grant said. “We were able to do that. I think the momentum for our guys carried over from there.”

The deficit, which was eight with eight to go, completely vanished by the two-minute mark, and the Crimson Tide completed a mammoth comeback to defeat the Gamecocks 68-63 in the Sommet Center to advance to keep its season alive.

“We told the guys we’ve been in this situation before,” Grant said. “We understand that with our style of play, with what we do, that we were more than capable of coming back, but that we had to make a decision in terms of playing to our identity on the defensive end, rebounding-wise, and understanding possession by possession we needed to chip away.”

Alabama shot 30 percent and South Carolina took advantage of 10 points off Tide turnovers in the opening half, leading to an 11-point Gamecock lead at the break.

South Carolina kept a consistent inside-out game in the opening minutes of the second half, and freshman forward Lakeem Jackson’s layup with 11:39 remaining gave the Gamecocks an 18-point advantage.

Junior guard Charvez Davis sparked the run by knocking down his second (and Alabama’s second) 3-pointer of the game with 11:18 left on the clock. After JaMychal Green made a layup, Davis hit another 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 10 with 9:48 remaining.

But the comeback was a product of the Tide’s defense more so than its offense.

A 3-pointer from USC freshman Ramon Galloway was the Gamecocks only field goal in the final 11 and a half minutes of the game.

“We just wanted to win the style of play game,” said senior guard Mikhail Torrance, who led Alabama with 17 points. “We knew in the second half it was going to come down to style of play. Their shots were coming up short, and that’s when I knew we had them and just to continue to execute down the stretch.”

Alabama’s biggest second-half run was a 26-5 spurt spanning from the 11:39 mark to the 1:40 mark, when Torrance converted on a layup that extended the Tide’s lead to 62-59.

Alabama forced nine turnovers in the second half and scored 11 points off the Gamecock mishaps.

“We just played like a team that was trying to hang on rather than a team that was trying to win and pull away,” said South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn. “I think for 30 minutes tonight we played extremely well and did all the things we wanted to do entering the game on both ends of the floor. Then in the last 10 minutes, we had a hard time scoring. They tried to take the ball out of Devan [Downey’s] hands a little bit.”

Downey, the SEC’s leading scorer, had a game-high 21 points but shot a poor 7-of-21 from the field.

Alabama forward Justin Knox scored 16 points and was a huge factor down the stretch.

“I really think the last four or five ball games, Justin’s really stepped up to the challenge, and that’s something that our basketball team has really needed,” Grant said.

The Tide will try to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive against top-seeded Kentucky today at noon.