Tide advances to NIT Final Four in New York

Tide+advances+to+NIT+Final+Four+in+New+York

Laura Owens

The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the Miami Hurricanes in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals 79-64 in Coleman Coliseum Wednesday night. With the win, Alabama will advance to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden, giving the Tide its sixth NIT Final Four appearance. Alabama also finished the season at 19-0 in Coleman.

“The atmosphere today was awesome,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “The thing we talked about before we took the floor today was making sure we finished it at home. The opportunity to go 19-0 and what these guys have accomplished this year, we couldn’t accept anything less than finishing it the right way.”

Leaders for the game were freshman Trevor Releford with 22 points and senior Senario Hillman with 17 points. Hillman fouled out late in the second half, but in the first half, he became Alabama’s all-time leader in career steals with 175.

Alabama shot 55 percent form the field, while holding Miami to 40 percent. The defense was also able to get 16 fast break points, which made all the difference in the second-half momentum.

“We’ve had some games where we played great defense and some where we didn’t, but this one I’d say was one of the better ones,” sophomore forward Tony Mitchell said. “I guess we had a chip on our shoulder with this being our last home game, and we just wanted to come out and win.”

Miami came out of halftime strong, cutting the lead to two with six quick baskets. The Tide gained a lead, but then Miami cut it back down to one.

“We needed to start the second half like we started the first half, and we didn’t,” Grant said. “Miami’s too good of a team. They immediately cut right back into the lead and made it into a game.”

When Miami brought the game within one point, Alabama went on an 8-2 run to secure the lead for the rest of the game. The Tide had its largest lead with three minutes left at 18 points.

Going into halftime, Alabama had a 10-point advantage over the Canes at 36-26, while leading by as many as 14 during the half. The Tide’s three highest season scorers in JaMychal Green, Releford and Mitchell all had two fouls. Green and Releford each only played seven minutes, while Mitchell played 19, having gotten his second foul later in the half.

Mitchell was also the leading scorer of the half with 10 and also ended a four-minute scoring drought with a field goal midway through the first half.

In the first half, the Tide shot 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from behind the arc. The defense held Miami to 42 percent from the field and 17 percent from the three-point line. The defense also forced 11 Miami turnovers that the team converted into 16 points.

Despite the initial disappointment at not getting into the NCAA tournament, the team has rallied together to come back and make a statement in the NIT. Alabama’s next game will be against Colorado in New York for the NIT semifinals Tuesday at 8 p.m.

“It’s still a championship there for the taking,” Mitchell said.