SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Alabama moved into the championship game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off behind a bevy of blocked shots.
Tony Mitchell scored 26 points and the Crimson Tide swatted away a tournament-record 14 shots in a 70-60 win over Wichita State on Friday night to grab a spot in the tournament final."That was the goal coming in and we're happy to have the opportunity to play for a championship," coach Anthony Grant said.JaMychal Green and Trever Releford added 15 points apiece to help Alabama (4-0) avenge its loss to the Shockers (3-1) in last year's NIT title game. The Crimson Tide (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) will play Purdue in Sunday's championship."We don't play in the past. We don't play in the future. We are focused on today," Grant said.Toure Murry scored 21 points for Wichita State and Carl Hall grabbed 12 rebounds.Alabama held Wichita State to 33.8 percent shooting from the field and forced 18 turnovers."That's what Coach tells us every day: Just bring pressure, be relentless," Releford said.Levi Randolph had two steals and put pressure on Wichita State's ballhandlers on every changeover. That was especially effective in the second half, when the Shockers shot just 27 percent from the field."Their press is really good," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "They take you out of sets. You have to beat the pressure, but if you do they have some guys in the back who can alter if not block shots. When we got past the pressure, we didn't make the easy plays that you have to make to hurt the pressure."Wichita State's bench outscored Alabama's reserves 25-6. The Shockers also had a 43-38 rebounding edge and shot 7 of 20 from 3-point range, with Ben Smith going 4 for 8.But all those the turnovers hurt, leading to 15 points for Alabama."Great effort, great focus, great intensity," Grant said. "Our philosophy is to play pressure defense for all 40 minutes and I think our defensive pressure may have taken a toll on them toward the end of the game."The Crimson Tide shot 43.4 percent from the floor and went 1 for 8 from beyond the arc.Nick Jacobs had five blocks off the bench for Alabama, and Green added four."Nick Jacobs came in and gave us some great minutes," Grant said. "You've got to love that activity from a freshman."It was another big night for Mitchell, who stepped up again as Green went 5 for 15 from the field.The win sets up a clash between the Crimson Tide's buckle-down defense and Purdue's potent offense in Sunday's final.Purdue has scored 91 and 85 points respectively in tournament wins over Iona and Temple. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, held Maryland to just 42 points in its opening-round game.Purdue leads the series between the two schools 5-2."They have a tremendous tradition," Grant said. "We know it is going to be a very tough game."