GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide continue their run in the 2013 NIT, as they play host to the second-seeded Maryland Terrapins at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday evening in quarterfinal action.
Maryland has won three of the four previous meetings with Alabama, although the Crimson Tide won the last matchup, a 64-42 rout in the Puerto Rico Classic last season. The winner of this contest will move into next week's semifinals in New York City to take on either Iowa or Virginia.
The Crimson Tide are playing as a No. 1 seed in this event for the second time in the last three years. Two years ago, that top billing propelled Alabama all the way to the NIT title game, where they lost to Wichita State, 66-57. Anthony Grant's squad this season has amassed a solid 23-12 overall record, including a 12-6 mark in the SEC. The Tide have made rather light work of the competition in this event thus far, knocking off Northeastern in first-round action, 62-43, before besting defending NIT champion Stanford last Saturday, 66-54. Alabama, which has won eight straight home games in this event, is 23-14 all-time in the NIT, the most NIT victories among SEC schools.
The Terrapins are no stranger to NIT success, as the team is seeking its third trip to the semifinal round all-time. Maryland is 13-6 in this event, capturing the 1972 championship. Mark Turgeon's Terrapins had some big wins on the season and come in at 24-12 overall. The team navigated through the earlier rounds of this event with an 86-70 rout of Niagara, followed by a 62-52 win over Denver, both in College Park.
Sophomore Dez Wells was once again a huge factor in Maryland's 10-point win over Denver last time out, hitting 7-of-10 shots from the floor to finish with a team-high 19 points. Maryland trailed by six points (50-44) with six minutes left in the game, but went on an 18-2 to close things out and advance. Seth Allen and Nick Faust provided scoring help in the win, tallying 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Wells, who currently leads Maryland in the scoring column at 13.2 ppg, has really elevated his game of late. The 6-foot-5 youngster is shooting a hefty .564 from the floor and averaging 18.3 ppg over the last 10 outings. Faust (9.5 ppg) is also making more of an impact in the scoring column of late, shooting .500 from the floor (.442 from behind the arc) and averaging 13.2 ppg over the last 10. The perimeter boost is made possible by the play of 7-foot-1 sophomore center Alex Len in the middle. Len is shooting .528 from the floor on the year and is averaging 11.7 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game.
Known for strong defense this season, Alabama comes in allowing a mere 58.4 ppg, while holding opponents to just .402 shooting. In addition, the Crimson Tide are forcing 14.4 turnovers per game. Junior guard Trevor Releford leads the way in the backcourt with a steady 15.1 ppg. He is joined in double figures by two more guards in Trevor Lacey (11.5 ppg) and Rodney Cooper (10.1 ppg). Lacey leads the team in both 3-pointers made (62) and assists (107), while Releford is tops in 3-point accuracy (.412, 47-of-114) and steals (68).
The Crimson Tide used a stifling defensive performance in the first half, limiting the Cardinal to just 7-of-28 shooting, to create enough distance to earn the double-digit win. Alabama also held a huge edge in free-throws, outscoring Stanford 22-to-8 from the charity stripe in the game. Levi Randolph led the way offensively for Alabama, finishing with 16 points. Retin Ovasohan poured in 14 points off the bench, while Releford tacked on 10 points in the win.
Alabama may have some trouble with Len in the middle, as they Tide lack a big man with the ability to counter all that Maryland's 7-footer can do. That being said, the Tide have won 16 games at home this year and Coleman Coliseum is certainly not a venue that provides many road wins for the competition.