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Alabama, Tulsa advance to NIT championship

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2001

NEW YORK -- Alabama's inability to win away from home kept the Crimson Tide out of the NCAA tournament. Doing just that has put Alabama into the NIT championship game.

Erwin Dudley and Kenny Walker controlled the inside as the Crimson Tide overpowered Detroit 74-63 in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night.

''Playing on the road has been a nightmare for us,'' said Dudley, who led Alabama with 20 points and 16 rebounds. ''We put all that behind us now and are focusing on the present and future.

Walker scored 13 points, including eight straight in a key second-half run, as Alabama (25-10) advanced to play the Tulsa-Memphis winner in Thursday night's NIT final.

Rod Grizzard added 18 and Gerald Wallace had eight points, seven assists and sex rebounds for the Crimson Tide, who outrebounded the Titans 44-33 and outscored Detroit 19-3 on second-chance points.

''We got some big baskets down the stretch off offensive rebounds,'' Dudley said. ''That helped us a lot.''

Alabama, which was ranked in the Top 25 for 14 straight weeks this season, lost five of its final six games and had to settle for an NIT berth.

The struggles on the road were the biggest problem for the Crimson Tide. They were just 6-9 away from Tuscaloosa, costing them the NCAA bid, before winning in double overtime at Purdue to earn a trip to New York.

''It's a great accomplishment to be in position to win a tournament with five sophomore starters,'' Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. ''We took a bad situation and turned it into something positive for us. Championships are championships.''

After a slow start in which they were down by 14 points after nine minutes, the Tide felt right at home in Madison Square Garden.

Alabama wore Detroit (25-11) down with its superior size and inside play. The Titans got within 59-57 on a 3-pointer by Rashad Phillips with 5:39 to play, but Walker scored eight straight points inside over a two-minute stretch to extend the lead to 10 points with 3:19 to play.

''We normally win the rebounding battle and when we don't we lose,'' Detroit coach Perry Watson said. ''I thought we did an excellent job of executing until late in the second half when they got very physical in the paint.''

Tulsa 72, Memphis 64

NEW YORK -- Kevin Johnson and Tulsa spoiled Memphis coach John Calipari's return to the New York area.

Johnson scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half to lead a balanced attack as the Golden Hurricane beat the Tigers 72-64 Tuesday night in the NIT semifinals.

Tulsa (25-11) advanced to the NIT championship game to face Alabama. The Crimson Tide (25-10) beat Detroit 74-63 in the first game.

This was the first trip back to the New York area for Calipari, the first-year coach at Memphis (20-15), since he was fired as New Jersey Nets coach three years ago.

There didn't appear to be many supporters from across the Hudson River in New Jersey, but Calipari did bring more than 100 fans from Massachusetts, where he went 193-71 in eight seasons, making the Final Four in 1996.

The Golden Hurricane didn't have to go down to the final seconds to win for a change. There three NIT victories were by nine points, including a last-second win at Mississippi State in the quarterfinals.

But they did get a scare, when Memphis cut a 20-point second half lead down to three with 4:46 left.

Tulsa then held the Tigers scoreless for the next 3:37, highlighted by Johnson's blocked shot against Shamel Jones, and hit its free throws to ice it.

Tulsa finished 20-for-26 at the line, compared with 4-for-14 for Memphis.

After losing the WAC title game at home to Hawaii, Tulsa has regrouped under first-year coach Buzz Peterson to beat UC-Irvine at home and win at Minnesota and Mississippi State to make it to New York.

That's nothing new for the Golden Hurricane, who have been one of the toughest tournament teams of late. They made it to the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament three times in the past eight years, including last year's trip to the regional final, before this year's NIT run.

Marcus Hill had 13 points and David Shelton added 11 for Tulsa, which had seven players score at least six points.

Shannon Forman led Memphis with 16 points and Marcus Moody and Kelly Wise added 13 each.

Foreman scored 11 points during a 21-4 run that cut a 20-point lead to three. After Foreman's 3-pointer made it 57-46 with 8:58 remaining, Peterson called timeout and yelled, ''What was that!'' at his team.

It didn't help. Tulsa soon committed three straight turnovers, leading to a pair of fast-break baskets by Foreman and another Tulsa timeout with the score 61-58.

But the Tigers didn't score again until Wise's dunk made it 66-60 with 1:09 left.

Tulsa used a pair of 7-0 runs in the first half -- one early and one to end it -- to go up 41-29 at halftime.

The Golden Hurricane had lost eight straight games to Memphis.



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