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November 28, 2013

Hoops: Alabama falls to Duke 74-64 in NIT Tip Off

NEW YORK | Coaches are loathe to hear the term moral victory, but Alabama head coach Anthony Grant didn't exactly recoil after hearing the term in the post-game press conference following his team's 74-64 loss to no. 6 Duke in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip Off before a crowd of 8,742 at Madison Square Garden.

"It is November," coach Grant admitted. "But it's a learning experience and we'll try to get better from this game."

The Crimson Tide trailed by 18 early in the second half, but they battled back and cut it to five at one point. An easy basket by star Blue Devils freshman Jabari Parker with 5:02 remaining slowed the Alabama run, though - and Duke never let the margin get any closer.

"I thought our guys fought and gave ourselves a chance a little bit in the second half," Grant said. "But we just couldn't make enough plays to come out with the win."

Parker gave the Crimson Tide fits inside all night, scoring a game-high 27. Junior forward Nick Jacobs led the way for Alabama in defeat, with 18 points off the bench. Algie Key added 11, also in relief. But a lack of production from the starters proved to be the difference.

Alabama guard Trevor Releford, the team's leading scorer coming into the night was limited to just 11, thanks largely to having spent much of the night in foul trouble. Releford picked up his second personal with 11:22 remaining in the first half. After four minutes on the bench, coach Grant saw the game slipping away, and decided he had no choice but to put in his senior star back in the game. The gamble failed to pay off, as Releford drew his third with 4:32 remaining in the half.

Releford was disappointed in the three first half foul calls, but refused to blame the officials - though he did concede that his foul situation affected his second half performance.

"Coach talks about it every day. We've got to control what we can," Releford said. "You can't go back and change the calls. Definitely with (the) fouls, it kind of took away from my aggressiveness. I just couldn't be aggressive and get to the lane.

The Crimson Tide took advantage of a sloppy start by the Blue Devils to sprint out to an early 12-5 lead, but two 3-pointers on consecutive possessions by Duke guard Matt Jones shifted the game's momentum completely. The buckets served as the catalyst for a 28-10 Duke run in the final 11:12 of the opening half, which put the Blue Devils in control, and sent Alabama to the locker room trailing 33-22.

Up next for the Crimson Tide is the consolation game against Drexel, who lost to no. 4 Arizona 66-62 in the first game of the doubleheader.

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