Alabama advances to semifinals with win over Tennessee

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Charlie Potter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Alabama men’s basketball team traded punches with Tennessee all afternoon long and finally pulled away late in the second half to claim a 58-48 victory over the Volunteers in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.

“We were prepared to go out to do the things we needed to do,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “Just really proud of our guys today for handling everything that came at them. It was a highly contested game, a physical game, a game of inches. But we answered the bell. It was a good win.”

The Crimson Tide (21-11) will advance to face the No. 1 seed Florida Gators on Saturday in the semifinal round. Florida defeated LSU 80-58 earlier on Friday and solidified its place as the top seed in the tournament.

The win over Tennessee strengthened Alabama’s chances of a birth in the NCAA tournament. But junior guard Trevor Releford said the Tide isn’t worried about its existing resume right now.

“I think we look at it as each game is a golden opportunity to get closer to a championship,” Releford said. “But we’re not necessarily worried about the NCAA tournament because if we take care of what we can take of here with a championship, it will be automatic.”

Poor shooting was the ultimate downfall for Tennessee, who just couldn’t get it going offensively. It completed 32 percent (18-56) of its shots from the field and 22 percent (5-23) of its 3-point attempts.

Alabama, on the other hand, shot the ball well in a critical game. The Tide completed 41 percent (19-46) of its shots from the floor and 50 percent from behind the arc.

“I thought we got great effort out of everybody that went on the court today,” Grant said. “We talked about the experiences that we had gained over the course of the season and what we needed to do from a scouting report standpoint, a preparation standpoint. And I thought everybody did a great job.”

Tennessee head coach Cuonzo Martin credited Alabama with controlling the game and making plays when it mattered most.

“We just didn’t make plays,” Martin said. “They made plays down the stretch. Trevor Releford only had one assist, but I thought he did a good job of controlling the tempo and controlling the game.”

Sophomore guard Levi Randolph led the offensive charge with 15 points and five rebounds. But he wasn’t alone in his scoring effort. Releford tacked on 14 points, while Retin Obasohan posted nine.

Tennessee’s Josh Richardson led all scorers with 16 points. Forward Jarnell Stokes posted a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

The Volunteers outrebounded the Tide 37-35. But Alabama outscored Tennessee 17-7 with points off the bench.

Grant said checking out updated brackets isn’t on his schedule until the conference tournament is over.

“Right now we’re in the SEC tournament, and we play Florida tomorrow for a chance to advance and play for a tournament championship,” Grant said. “That’s all that really matters. Nothing else really matters.”

The Tide and Gators will battle at noon on Saturday. The game will be televised on ABC.