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February 12, 2013

Randolph, Cooper 3s lead Alabama

ATHENS, Ga. | The University of Alabama men's basketball team seemed on the verge of a road collapse Tuesday night but found a shot of confidence - or, more precisely, two shots.

Crucial 3-point baskets by Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper in the final 2:17 of play erased a one-point Georgia lead and lifted Alabama to a 52-45 victory over the Bulldogs, snapping a five-game Georgia winning streak.

The victory moved Alabama to 16-8 overall, 8-3 in Southeastern Conference play. The Crimson Tide is tied for second in the league with Kentucky, which lost at Florida on Tuesday night.

Alabama seemed to be in control of the game with 4:52 remaining when a Nick Jacobs' hook shot lifted UA to an eight-point lead, 40-32. Georgia (12-12, 6-5 SEC) answered with a 9-0 run, taking the lead on a Donte Williams dunk with 2:37 remaining.

Instead of fading away, Alabama answered the challenge.

Randolph hit the critical shot, nailing a 3-pointer with 2:17 remaining to put Alabama back on top.

"A couple of possessions before, I drove on a play where Coach said I needed to shoot," Randolph said. "On the next possession, Trevor (Releford) got me the ball, and I knew I should shoot with confidence.

"Coach always tells us to stay the course, to take good shots and they will eventually go in."

"I thought it was the same type of shot Levi passed up a couple of minutes before," UA coach Anthony Grant said. "I thought he was in rhythm and that was a shot I wanted him to take, and when it came up again, he did."

After a UA defensive stop with Georgia star Kendavious Caldwell-Pope missing a 3-pointer, the Crimson Tide's Rodney Cooper got the same opportunity - and hit another 3-pointer that put Alabama up 46-41 with 1:38 to play.

After another Georgia miss, this time on the front end of a one-and-one, UA was able to finish the game at the foul line.

Alabama got off to a characteristically slow start, not scoring for the first five minutes as Georgia built a 7-0 lead. The deficit reached 15-6 with 9:46 to go in the half, but the Crimson Tide went on an 11-0 run over the next three minutes, taking its first lead at 17-15 with 6:44 to go in the half.

The teams exchanged leads for the rest of the half, with Alabama holding a 25-22 edge at halftime.

"In the second half, we knew Georgia would make a run," Grant said. "We had to withstand that. I told them we needed to attack."

Cooper led Alabama with 14 points, while Randolph added eight points and seven rebounds. Caldwell-Pope led all scorers with 22 points but was held under 50 percent from the floor (8 of 18) after shooting over 60 percent in Georgia's five-game winning streak.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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