TUSCALOOSA — Apparently, fire in the eyes beats a bum ankle.
Alabama’s leading scorer, Trevor Releford, missed the last game and didn’t start Saturday’s 50-49 win over Texas A&M because of an injured ankle. Even so, he came off the bench against the Aggies and managed a game-high 15 points — all in the second half and all after Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant noticed his star guard had a little too much energy to ignore.
“At the first timeout in the second half, I saw he had a fire and intensity in his eyes,” Grant said. “He didn’t come out of the game after that. ... He was terrific.”
Releford managed six of his points in the final four minutes, and he also managed the game-clinching steal as Alabama (11-6, 3-1 SEC) secured its third straight victory.
“On Friday, I went to practice, and I felt good and that I could come out here and help the team,” said Releford, who entered with a 16.3-point average.
Alabama struggled to score all day, going through scoreless stretches of 9:54 and 2:36 in the first half and 6:50 in the second half.
But Grant said he thought the problems didn’t come from effort and instead “sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in the basket.”
Late in the second half, Alabama found some offense and managed to tough out a win in a way it didn’t in December when it lost four games by seven or fewer points.
Releford scored twice in the final four minutes when the Crimson Tide trailed by two. Then with 42 seconds left and Texas A&M leading 47-45, Andrew Steele made a layup, drew a foul and made the free throw for a 48-47 advantage.
After Texas A&M’s Fabyon Harris sank a basket with 19 seconds left, Alabama called timeout and drew up a play for either guard Trevor Lacey or post player Nick Jacobs in the middle of the floor. Lacey came off a double screen and found himself relatively free for a 17-foot jumper, which he sank with 8.3 seconds left.
The Aggies (12-5, 2-2) didn’t call timeout and instead tried to hurry up the floor. Freshman Alex Caruso took a pass at about midcourt and turned. Lacey was there in his way and tipped the ball away. Releford picked it up before Caruso could take it back. That sealed the win.
“They hit a big shot,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We decided to attack after the shot and try to go the length of the floor. We got bumped, but you’re not going to get the ball in that situation. We lost the ball and unfortunately, we lost. But Alabama had a lot to do with that.”
n Notes: Lacey made his second game-winning shot of the season, also beating South Dakota State with a 3-pointer in the season opener. ... Alabama 7-foot-0 center Moussa Gueye started but went scoreless for the fourth straight game. ... Elston Turner, who had 40 points against Kentucky, managed a team-high 13 points against the Crimson Tide. ...
Alabama had 11 steals and is now 9-1 when making at least eight. ... Saturday’s game drew 13,741 to Coleman Coliseum, which is a little under the 13,912 Alabama’s gymnastics win over LSU drew the previous night. Tide home basketball tickets are $20 for adults, while the gymnastics seats are $10 for adults. ...
Alabama, which was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams nationally last year, made 6 of 11 Saturday, including 4 of 6 by Lacey. ... The Crimson Tide bench outscored Texas A&M’s 26-6, largely because of Releford.
Contact Mark Edwards at email@example.com or 256-340-2461.