March 12, 2009
||(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
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Audio: Thompson's Interview with Coach Stallings
Audio: Thompson's Interview with Tinsley
Audio: 104.5 Play of Game - Drake's Three
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Alonzo Gee scored 25 points and Alabama went 12-for-12 from the foul line in the final 1:03 to hold off Vanderbilt 82-75 Thursday night in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Mikhail Torrance made all eight of his free throws and finished with 20 points as the Crimson Tide (18-13) continued a strong late-season surge and advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against SEC East co-champion Tennessee.
Gee bounced back from a poor shooting night in Alabama's 70-67 victory over Tennessee in the regular-season finale to go 9-for-12 from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line. The Crimson Tide built a 16-point lead, but Brad Tinsley and Jeffery Taylor led a late surge that helped Vanderbilt (19-12) trim its deficit to five in the final minute.
Tinsley led Vanderbilt with 20 points and Taylor had 17 for the Commodores. Leading scorer A.J. Ogilvy was held without a field goal until the final minute and finished with eight points.
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings felt his team entered the tournament playing its best basketball of the season. The Commodores won three straight down the stretch, including a 13-point win over South Carolina at home and an eight-point road win over conference regular-season champion LSU.
Alabama rebounded from a tough stretch following the resignation of former coach Mark Gottfried to win four of five games heading into a rematch of the Feb. 5 meeting won by Vanderbilt 79-74 in Nashville.
Gee scored 11 points and Alabama led by as many as 12 before George Drake keyed an 11-1 burst that trimmed Vanderbilt's deficit to 30-28. Alabama led 36-30 at the half, and the Commodores had to feel fortunate to be that close, considering Ogilvy was 0-for-2 from the field and had two points.
Things didn't get any easier after the break for the 6-foot-11 sophomore from Sydney, Australia. The only shot Ogilvy took in the first nine minutes of the second half was blocked, and he was 0-for-4 before he finally made a layup for his first field goal with 55.9 seconds to go.
The basket pulled Vanderbilt to within 70-63, but Alabama retained its poise. Even more importantly, the Crimson Tide continued to make free throws. Torrance and Anthony Brock went to the line and calmly converted -- Torrance was 8-for-8 and Brock 4-for-4 -- to close out the game.
Ogilvy finished 2-for-7 and had eight rebounds and six assists. The team's second-leading scorer, Jermaine Beal, had a tough night offensively, too, scoring five points on 2-for-11 shooting.
Tinsley, Taylor and Drake, who scored 14, took up the slack. The trio combined for eight of Vanderbilt's 10 three-pointers.