Dec. 28, 2008
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Time wasn't quite on Yale's side Sunday night against Alabama. After trailing by 18 points early in the second half, the Bulldogs rallied to cut the deficit to one twice in the final minute. The Crimson Tide, though, made seven of eight free throws down the stretch, and when time expired Alabama had escaped with a hard-fought 66-63 victory before a crowd of 8,814 at Coleman Coliseum.
It was a seven-minute stretch that spoiled Yale's bid for an upset. Alabama (8-3) led only 26-25 with 3:01 left in the first half but scored the final 10 points of the half and opened the second half with a 9-2 run to go up by 18, 45-27, with 15:45 left.
The Bulldogs then started their comeback, which was spearheaded by a switch to a 1-3-1 defense. Jordan Gibson's three-pointer cut the deficit to nine midway through the half. Gibson hit another three-pointer three minutes later to make it a six-point game, 55-49, with 6:15 left.
"It [the defense] gave us some energy," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "We turned them over a little bit and got some easy baskets. We had been struggling in our half-court offense."
Ross Morin's jumper pulled Yale within two, 59-57, with 50 seconds remaining. After Alabama's Alonzo Gee made a pair of free throws, Alex Zampier hit three free throws to cut the deficit to one, 61-60, with 13 seconds left.
Ronald Steele's two free throws gave Alabama a three-point lead with 11 seconds remaining. The Crimson Tide then fouled deliberately to keep Yale from attempting a three-point shot. Two more free throws from Zampier made it 64-63 with four seconds left, but Senario Hillman answered with two free throws with 2.3 seconds left. Zampier was then fouled deliberately again with two-tenths of a second remaining, but he missed the front end of the one-and-one, and the final buzzer sounded.
Morin and Travis Pinick, who returned to the lineup after missing one game with an injury, combined to score 37 points and grab 17 rebounds for the Bulldogs. Morin had 20 points and Pinick added 17 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double of the season.
"Having [Travis] healthy makes a big difference for us. He is capable of doing this every night," Jones said. "Ross was solid. He really held his own down low."
Zampier finished with eight points, all of which came from the free throw line. He was limited to 21 minutes because of foul trouble. Gibson also scored eight points and added five rebounds. Garrett Fiddler contributed six points and six rebounds. Chris Andrews had five assists and four steals in 21 minutes off the bench.
Yale's bench outscored Alabama's 12-2 in the game.
Gee led the Crimson Tide with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Hillman added 18 points and Steele had 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Yale (2-7) committed only two turnovers in the second half, and outscored Alabama 38-30.
"We took care of the ball, and I thought we did a great job of finding each other in our offense," said Morin of the second-half performance.
This was the first meeting between Yale and Alabama, but the two coaches were familiar with each other. Jones and Alabama's Mark Gottfried served as assistant coaches to Villanova's Jay Wright for the 2007 USA Basketball Men's Pan American Games Team. Gottfried, who is in his 11th year guiding the Crimson Tide, was impressed with the Bulldogs.
"They did a terrific job," he said. "I thought they executed their offense really well."
Yale continues its road trip on Tuesday, playing at Hampton. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.
"There were a lot of positives tonight," Morin said. "Hopefully we can learn from this and continue to get better."
Report filed by Tim Bennett, Yale Sports Publicity