National Invitation Tournament Second Round Recap - Alabama 74, New Mexico 67

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There’s only one way to respond if you think that you’ve been unfairly snubbed by the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. Yes, if you’ve been left by the side of the road to the Final Four, the only thing to do is answer with a big run in the NIT.

Yes, the Alabama Crimson Tide are doing something about the fact that they were denied access to the NCAA Tournament. A hungry team is storming through the NIT bracket and serving notice that it owns more than a little degree of on-court quality.

Alabama defeated the New Mexico Lobos in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament from Coleman Coliseum on Monday evening. The Crimson Tide dominated the second half and survived a late New Mexico rally to advance to the quarterfinals. A win in the quarterfinals against Miami – in a matchup more suited to the Sugar Bowl for college football historians in the crowd – would send the Tide to Madison Square Garden, home to the NIT semifinals next week in New York City.

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Tony Mitchell had 23 points, 6 rebounds, and a pair of highlight reel dunks to lead Alabama to victory. Head coach Anthony Grant’s squad shot a blistering 75 percent in the second half to pull away from the pesky Lobos. New Mexico, for its part, missed a number of easy baskets. The young Lobos also couldn’t handle the Crimson Tide’s pressure in the second half, and that resulted in a number of transition buckets for Alabama. The proliferation of fast-break baskets is precisely the thing that enabled the home team to accumulate such a high shooting percentage. When stacks of layups and dunks are part of the equation, a team that might ordinarily shoot 40 percent will become lethally effective. This isn’t rocket science, but it’s a part of the alchemy of basketball that has to be mentioned. After all, it’s the main reason Alabama won this game.

Trevor Releford had 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists for the Crimson Tide, who have won all 18 games at home this season, a supreme achievement for a rapidly-improving basketball program that just missed out on the Big Dance in 2011. New Mexico’s Kendall Williams led the Lobos with 18 points. New Mexico shot just 37 percent from the field, missing on 19 of its 28 three-point attempts. Head coach Steve Alford’s Lobos finished the season at 22-13.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer




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