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November 16, 2012
Releford leads Alabama past Villanova
NEW YORK | Trevor Releford clearly enjoyed being back in the Alabama starting lineup on Friday night.
The junior point guard exploded for a career-high 25 points, powering the Crimson Tide to a 77-55 win over Villanova in the championship game of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.
Releford was 5 for 5 from the 3-point line en route to earning Most Valuable Player honors. Alabama (4-0) finished 9 of 14 from beyond the arc.
"We came out tonight for 40 minutes and did a good job," UA coach Anthony Grant said. "It was great coming off of last night (when Alabama lost a big lead before winning in the final minute) to show we had learned the lessons and to finish this one off."
"I thought for our team, starting Trevor (Releford) was the best thing for our team today. Villanova will almost force you to make a play in every possession, so seeing him be aggressive offensively was great. The way he played was the catalyst for us tonight."
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm in a first half punctuated by frequent whistling from the officials. Alabama shot well from the field and managed to overcome 10 turnovers and foul trouble on Lacey to take a 29-26 lead at the half.
Villanova erased that lead with a 5-0 run to start the half, taking its last lead at 31-29 with 18:11 remaining. But Alabama took charge at that point. Over the next 10 minutes, the Crimson Tide went on a 23-6 run, taking a 52-37 lead with 8:16 to play. UA stretched that lead to as many as 24 points late in the game.
"Our defense was the difference," forward Andrew Steele said. "I think our pressure wore them down, not with turnovers, but with taking them out of what they want to do."
Rodney Cooper added 17 points for the Crimson Tide and made to the all-tournament team.
Forward JayVaughn Pinkston led Villanova (3-1) with 17 points.
"This was definitely a learning experience for us," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We only trailed 29-26 at half and I thought we couldn't play worse, but we proved me wrong. We hit a 3 coming out of the half and we couldn't do anything else against them. That is a disciplined, well-coached team."
Alabama will return to action next Friday, hosting Charleston Southern.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.