TUSCALOOSA _ He enjoyed his first win as the University of Alabama men's basketball coach last week, but Anthony Grant got his first big win Friday night.
Thanks to a last-minute flourish, and six points in the final 44 seconds by senior guard Mikhail Torrance, the Crimson Tide rallied to pull off an uplifting 84-75 victory against Providence at Coleman Coliseum.
Not only was it the first loss of the season for the Friars, but the entire Big East Conference, which had been 41-0.
"At the end of the game, it was really fitting that we won the game with our defense," said Grant, later adding: "They needed a win like this to show them their hard work is paying off."
Torrance led the Tide with a career-high 26 points, while sophomore forward JaMychal Green and junior forward Justin Knox both had double-doubles despite running into some foul trouble. While the teams combined for 46 fouls, both players finished with four along with junior forward Chris Hines.
Green, who picked up his fourth foul with 8:57 remaining, finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Knox had 13 points and 10 rebounds and made 11 of 12 free throws. Overall, Alabama shot 35 free throws and made 27 for 77.1 percent -- which had been a problem area last season.
"We all knew we had foul trouble," Knox said. "Coach was telling us to play strong down there.
"We just had to keep our head."
Sophomore forward Jamine Peterson led Providence with 27 points and 14 rebounds, while junior guard Marshon Brooks had 22 points and seven costly turnovers.
Meanwhile, Alabama (2-1) had just two turnovers in the second half while scoring 51 points.
"It's a big win," Torrance said. "It's a team win. We really prepared for this game. The coaching staff put us in great position to do what we do."
The Tide scored 20 points in the paint and had a 21-7 advantage in points off turnovers.
Providence got off to an early lead thanks in part to three 3-pointers, while Alabama shot just 29.7 percent overall (11 of 37) in the first half. Both the shooting and rebounds essentially evened out to where neither side had a significant advantage, but the Tide kept driving and getting players to the free-throw line.
After Providence took a 75-74 lead on a Brooks jump shot with 1:37 remaining, the Friars' first since 39-38 in the opening moments following halftime, the Tide turned it on to the delight of 10,032 fans who were unaccustomed to such late-game heroics.
Unlike the season-opening loss to Cornell loss, when Alabama wasn't able to get any key stops when the game was on the line, this time it did with an Andrew Steele layup starting the run.
That was followed by a steal and basket by Torrance, who drew a foul on the play and made the free throw for a 79-75 lead. When the Friars couldn't counter, Torrance again went to the line, made the first and Steele grabbed the rebound off the second attempt.
Again Torrance went to the line and this time he didn't miss, and junior guard Senario Hillman subsequently put the exclamation point on the victory with a steal and dunk.
"No one should look down on us anymore," Knox said after his first career double-double. "We have a new coach and we can do a lot of things as a team here."