TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama was without its top three inside players, but it didn't look like it on Saturday afternoon against streaking Tennessee.
The Crimson Tide instead played like the confident team on a winning streak.
The Volunteers' four-game win streak came to a crashing end at Coleman Coliseum, where the host Tide earned a 62-50 SEC victory.
Alabama (17-9, 6-6 SEC) again played without suspended forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, the team's top two scorers and rebounders. Forward Nick Jacobs (root canal) also didn't play, forcing Tide coach Anthony Grant to start four freshmen. Yet Alabama won the battle on the boards from start to finish and swarmed the Vols with a mixture of fullcourt presses and traps and zone and man-to-man halfcourt defenses.
Trevor Lacey led Alabama with 18 points. Trevor Releford chipped in 13 off the bench, and Andrew Steele scored 10 points with five rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Alabama had 15 steals as a team and scored 19 points off 17 UT turnovers.
The Vols (14-13, 6-6) had possession down two with 14 minutes left in the game before coming unraveled with turnovers, fouls and missed shots. Alabama ran off eight consecutive points in a 17-2 run that gave the Tide a 52-35 lead with five minutes left. UT's guards struggling mightily against Alabama's pressuring defense, and the shorthanded Tide played with more hustle and energy than the visitors.
Jeronne Maymon led the Vols with 20 points and six rebounds. Trae Golden scored 12 points but turned the ball over six times. UT shot just 34 percent and made just seven shots after halftime. Skylar McBee, Jordan McRae and Cameron Tatum combined for 10 points on 2-of-20 shooting.
UT led 13-8 early before the Tide answered with a 10-0 run. Carl Engstrom's three-point play pushed Alabama's lead to 27-17 with less than three minutes left before halftime. Trae Golden made three straight baskets, including a pair of treys, to trim UT's deficit to 29-25 at halftime.
Maymon and Lacey had a dozen points each in the first half. With freshman Jarnell Stokes on the bench for all but three first-half minutes with two fouls, the Tide, even without their top two rebounders, controlled the glass. Alabama held a 20-12 rebounding advantage and grabbed nine offensive boards to UT's seven defensive boards in the first half.
More coverage online and in Sunday's Times Free Press.
Patrick Brown has been the University of Tennessee beat writer since January 2011. A native of Memphis, Brown graduated from UT in May of 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Electronic Media and worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel for two years on the sports editorial staff and as a freelance contributor. If it’s the NBA, the NFL or SEC football and basketball, he’s probably reading about it or watching it on TV. Contact him ...