I will keep this fairly short as Alias did a great job in his recap below. I just wanted to reiterate a couple of his points and share a few pics my gf took at the game. My apologies for the delay in posting a recap. I got home around midnight, in bed after 1 am, and have been fighting fires on various fronts all day long today.
Bama finished with a perfect home record.
Alias is right, the crowd was awesome. They announced the attendance at 8,600, but it looked like closer to 10,000. I think it really helped us on defense, as Miami appeared to get rattled when the crowd got noisy. At times, Miami looked a lot like our teams under Gottfried did on the road. Their guards had no clue how to handle our trap.
The undefeated home record is a huge accomplishment for this team, and a key to building this program. No team will ever win more home games than this team. I spoke to a fan last night who had not been to a game since the Wimp Sanderson era. We can talk all we want about marketing, but fans have fun when the home team wins. When fans have fun, they want to come back, and invite more friends to do so. I think we are starting to see the cumulative effect of that.
I was shocked that Miami brought a solid following. They had about 100 or so fans scattered throughout, including a few loud, obnoxious, trash talking douchebags sitting a few rows behind us. Sporting backwards hats, nut dusters, and gold chains, they were stereotypical of the early 90's Miami football fans. But on this night, it wasn't about "the U."
Miami's body language says it all, hands on the hips, heads hung low.
Releford got into foul trouble in the first half, and we had an unusual lineup on the court of Eblen, Hankerson, Hillman, Mitchell, and Hines. You could tell this combination had not played together much as the offensive chemistry was definitely off. Thankfully, we maintained the lead with good defense.
The seniors all had games that were representative of their UA careers. Davis played good defense and made a 3 to bust the zone. Chris Hines didn't score much, but pulled down 9 rebounds and defended the paint, doing all the little things. Most importantly, Senario Hillman was all over the court. He had a few of those poor jumpshot selections that make you scream "NO!" when you see him pulling up. He also fouled out. But despite not being able to shoot a jumpshot or a free throw, he scored 17 points by getting to the rim, getting rebounds, and creating steals that led to fast break points. He took over sole possession of the UA record for all time steals leader.
This dunk by Hillman got the place rocking and led to the big 2nd half run that put the game away.
The assistant coaches did a good job of preventing Coach Grant from getting a technical near the end of the game. Miami players generally had a bad attitude, and things were getting a bit chippy. I think the refs gave them a number of mercy calls in the final 4 minutes when it was obvious we were going to win, to try to keep things under control.
Green scored 14 points despite playing much of the game in foul trouble again.
Coach Grant celebrates with appreciative fans after the game. This doesn't look like a man who is thinking about leaving anytime soon.
As most of you know, we now go to Madison Square Garden in New York for the NIT final 4. We will play Colorado Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern, 8 central on ESPN2. Colorado is perhaps the only team who has even more of a beef than us relative to the NCAA selection committee. They are a lot like us, except they are more of an offensive oriented team. This will be a tough game for us. The winner will play either Washington State or Wichita State for the NIT Championship Thursday night.
Bobbyjack and I have previously discussed the significance of the NIT, and I admit to saying in the past that it should be scrapped, but this year has changed my mind. The tournament serves its purpose for a team like Alabama who played horrible early in the season, but turned it around against all odds. This team played above their heads in SEC play, and deserved the reward of post season basketball. Instead, our spot was given to teams like UAB (who lost their play in game by 20) and Tennessee (30 point loss to Michigan first round). In the post game interviews, many players said they had never been to New York and are excited about playing in Madison Square Garden. This has been a special season, and I'm happy to see the players getting that reward.
The Garden is the world's most famous arena, and the best player to ever play the game once called it "the Mecca of basketball." I will be making my first pilgrimage there Tuesday night, and will stay for the Championship if we are fortunate enough to win. I will try to post updates from the Big Apple. RTR!