TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Levi Randolph scored 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished five assists to lead Alabama to a 59-51 victory over South Carolina Tuesday night.
Retin Obasohan contributed 15 points and Rodney Cooper added 11 for the Crimson Tide (17-11, 7-8 Southeastern Conference).
"We just tried to be more aggressive in the second half," Randolph said. "We played together. We take what the defense gives you. We're going to fight and give it all to get the win."
After South Carolina battled back to tie the score at 44 with 8:31 left, Alabama outscored the Gamecocks 15-7 down the stretch and Randolph netted seven points in the final 6:07.
"Give a lot of credit to Levi Randolph," said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. "We battled to tie the game after being so atrocious to start the second half. Levi does what seniors do. Protect the home court and put the team on their back."
South Carolina (13-14, 4-11) led 10-3 early and stayed in front throughout most of the first half. Alabama closed to within one point on three occasions before finally tying the game at on a 3-pointer by Randolph with 1:52 left. Laimonas Chatkevicious made a jump shot for the Gamecocks and Jimmie Taylor answered with a dunk to make it 22-22 at intermission.
Alabama opened the second half with a 19-11 run and was up 41-33 after another dunk by Taylor at the 12:56 mark.
"We were small (at that point) and we tried to press a little bit to get them off kilter and then to get back to our zone," said Alabama coach Anthony Grant. "We were able to force misses. We got a little ball movement and player movement. We were able to defend and that was probably the difference."
"I think they did a good job not allowing us to get the ball inside," said South Carolina's Duane Notice. "They protected us from getting the ball to our bigs. As guards, we have to be more aggressive on the perimeter, make shots and attack the zone. I think their length and speed was the factor for them against us."
Chatkevicius had 18 points and Notice 16 points for South Carolina.
Crimson Tide: Senior guard Levi Randolph leads Alabama in scoring (14.7 ppg), assists (2.3 apg), steals (1.4) and minutes (35 mpg) and currently ranks fifth in the SEC in field goal percentage (.491) and free throw percentage (.803), ninth in steals and 11th in scoring. . Alabama leads the all-time series with South Carolina 24-15, including holding a 12-2 advantage at home. . The Crimson Tide has won seven of the last eight games played in Tuscaloosa. . Ricky Tarrant, second on the team in scoring average (13.1 ppg) and 3-pointers made (29) and the team-leader in assists (2.0 apg) and steals (1.4 spg), has missed seven straight games because of a lower right leg injury.
Gamecocks: South Carolina won the first meeting between the two teams this year 68-66 on Jan. 13 in Columbia. . In their first meeting South Carolina, despite shooting a lower percentage, prevailed because it outrebounded Alabama 32-22 and forced the Crimson Tide into 14 turnovers that resulted in the Gamecocks getting a lot more shots. . South Carolina's last win in Tuscaloosa was 75-73 on Feb. 14, 2009.
HIGH SCHOOL TEAMMATES
Alabama coach Anthony Grant and South Carolina coach Frank Martin are long-time friends and were teammates on the basketball team when they attended Miami (FL) Senior High School.
The game was declared a "Blue Out for Diabetes" to help raise diabetes awareness. Grant and his wife, Chris, are spokespersons for the event.
Crimson Tide: At Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Gamecocks: Host Mississippi State on Saturday.