TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- It was a big day both on and off the court for Alabama's Earnest Shelton.
The senior guard graduated Saturday morning with a degree in management after 3½ years and scored 15 points Saturday night to help the Crimson Tide (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) defeat Tennessee State 87-79."It's been a fun day. It's been a long day," said Shelton, who will begin work on a second degree in January. "I was up early for graduation and then I came here to play. I got to do the two things that I love to do."Alabama's players were as proud of Shelton's degree as they were of their win."We're all proud of Earnest and we realize how important the classroom is. He's a great example to us all," said Chuck Davis, who had one of his best games for the Crimson Tide.Davis was all over the court for Alabama (9-1), grabbing rebounds, blocking shots and scoring -- several times on thunderous dunks."I played well, but I really commend my teammates for getting me the ball so I could get easy shots. I didn't have to work too hard," Davis said after scoring 24 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking seven shots.Davis finished with career bests in rebounds and blocked shots and one short of his personal-best 25 points."I thought Chuck played well. He was real agressive and did a good job rebounding the basketball on both ends," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said.Alabama never trailed and led by as many as 25 points in the second half before Tennessee State rallied late, mostly against reserves.Kennedy Winston scored 19 points for Alabama.The leading scorer in the game was Tennessee State's Bruce Price, who had 26 points. Eric King scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds for the Tigers, while Roshaun Bowens and Rod Flowers had 11 each.Alabama started fast. Davis hit a jumper from the corner seven seconds into the game and scored six of the Crimson Tide's first 10 points as Alabama took a 10-2 lead in the first three minutes.Tennessee State (5-6) fought back and cut the lead to 17-16 on a 3-pointer by Bowens midway through the half. But that was as close as Tennessee State would get. Shelton stole the ball and went all the way for a layup to spark a 9-2 Alabama run that ended with a 3-pointer by Winston.The Crimson Tide led 39-33 at halftime and outscored the Tigers 10-0 in the first two minutes after intermission, ending with a 3-pointer by Shelton.Tennessee State coach Cy Alexander said Alabama's run at the start of the second half was the difference in the game."We knew Alabama was going to turn it up to another level and we just didn't respond," Alexander said.Alabama's biggest lead came with 5:10 to play when Winston hit two free throws to put the Crimson Tide ahead 80-55.