TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Jermareo Davidson, Mykal Riley and Alabama were missing shot after shot, seemingly unable to muster enough offense to catch up with South Carolina.
Then, the Crimson Tide (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) used stingy defense and sudden hot streaks by that duo to rally from an eight-point second-half deficit for a 64-61 victory over the Gamecocks on Saturday.Riley scored 14 of his 15 points over the final 12 minutes, including three 3-pointers. Davidson missed his first eight shots and failed to score in the opening 25 minutes but still wound up with nine points and 10 rebounds.Richard Hendrix was more consistent. He had 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Tide (16-5, 4-4 Southeastern Conference), which had trailed 34-26 in the opening minutes of the second half and missed its first nine shots after halftime."That was kind of a grind-it-out, slug-it-out, find-a-way-to-win type of game," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "In this conference you're going to have some like that and you've got to find a way to win them."It was an appropriate way for the Tide to regain the lead in the up-and-down SEC West, where none of the six teams have winning records.Hendrix, who had nine offensive boards, hit two straight baskets inside to give Alabama a 61-58 lead with 1:33 left."I knew once I got it down the stretch I needed to take my time and make the buckets count," he said.Wallace then threw an errant pass on South Carolina's next possession to give the Tide the ball back.But Riley missed a pullup jumper with 35 seconds to play to give the Gamecocks a shot at tying it. South Carolina (12-9, 2-6) called timeout 15 seconds later, but Alonzo Gee tipped Tre' Kelley's pass into the hands of Riley."I thought we were wasting too much time there," Gamecocks coach Dave Odom said. "I wanted to go ahead and play without taking the timeout, without letting Alabama set up any type of defense. That was bad execution."Brandon Hollinger hit two free throws with 8.9 seconds left to make it 63-58.Wallace then hit a 3-pointer with 2 seconds to play for South Carolina, but Hendrix got the ball to Riley on a long inbounds pass. He was quickly fouled by Bryce Sheldon and made the second of two free throws with less than a second remaining.Sheldon's desperation three-quarter court shot at the buzzer sailed well left of the basket.Gee had 12 points and four steals for the Tide to help spearhead a strong defensive effort. South Carolina had 12 turnovers in the second half and only four before that."We did a good job of keeping our defensive intensity up for the whole game," Hendrix said. "That's what helped pull us through."The resurgence of Davidson and Riley helped, too.Coming off a career-high 31 points at LSU, Davidson didn't score until hitting two free throws with 14:48 left. He made just 2-of-11 shots but was 5-for-6 from the free throw line.Riley, who was replaced in the starting lineup by Hollinger this week, made his first field goal on a 3-pointer with 11:39 to play, and hit two more 3s after that."He's a guy that knows he needs to step up and make shots for this team," Gottfried said. "They were doing a pretty good job trying take some things away outside. He stepped up and made big shots. That's what you need from your shooters."Sheldon led South Carolina with 17 points, making 5-of-8 3-pointers. Kelley had 14 points and eight assists, but also committed seven turnovers.Dwayne Day finished with 10 points.Alabama took its first lead of the second half, at 51-50, on Hollinger's 3-pointer from the right corner with 7:01 left.Sheldon had kept South Carolina ahead with three consecutive 3s from nearly the same spot on the right side. But the Gamecocks' next five possessions ended with a missed shot and four turnovers."Offensively down the stretch we just didn't execute," Sheldon said. "We turned the ball over numerous times and that cost us. We just beat ourselves down the stretch."South Carolina freshman Evaldas Baniulus, who had a career-high 21 points in a loss to Auburn Wednesday, failed to score. He was in early foul trouble and took only one shot in six minutes."I'm sure they were out there on him and probably pressured him more than he was ready for and probably unsettled him," Odom said.