Releford's 3 Lifts Alabama Past Georgia 61-58

By: AP
By: AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Trevor Releford hit a buzzer-beating 50-footer to give Alabama a 61-58 win over Georgia on Saturday after a wild sequence.

Rodney Cooper grabbed the loose ball from a driving Charles Mann in the final seconds and lofted a pass to Releford, who quickly launched the long shot to prevent overtime, setting off a celebration on the court while officials briefly reviewed the play.

The Crimson Tide (20-11, 12-6 Southeastern Conference) lost a 14-point halftime lead before Releford's shot salvaged fading hopes of an at-large NCAA tournament bid. Alabama will be seeded fourth in the SEC tournament and receive a bye into Friday's quarterfinals.

Mann scored on a jumper in the final minute for the Bulldogs (15-16, 9-9) but missed the subsequent free throw. Nemanja Djurisic rebounded and delivered it to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who buried the tying 3-pointer with 48 seconds left.

Mann got the ball and took it toward the basket after Caldwell-Pope batted away a pass. Then Mann lost the ball amid contact with defender Nick Jacobs that left both of them sprawled on the floor for the final shot. Cooper got the ball to Releford, who launched the long 3 a few feet before reaching midcourt.

The victory marks the first time Alabama has reached 20 wins in three straight seasons since Wimp Sanderson's teams from 1990-92. The Crimson Tide also won all nine SEC home games.

Back-to-back road losses to No. 11 Florida and Mississippi left Alabama's NCAA tournament hopes reeling. Then the Bulldogs kept coming back.

Djurisic hit a 3-pointer with 1:09 to play to bring the Bulldogs to within 57-53, the third time they had cut a 14-point halftime deficit to four points in the final minutes.

This time the comeback didn't halt there.

Georgia coach Mark Fox called a timeout and Mann fouled Releford on the full-court press. Releford hit 1 of 2 from the line before Mann's shot.

The Bulldogs were playing less than 48 hours after Thursday night's 72-62 upset of Kentucky, which followed another 10-point win over Tennessee. They almost knocked off a third-straight NCAA hopeful.

Releford, who had an 18-minute scoring drought after opening with two quick 3-pointers, finished with 19 points. He hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range and had three steals. He also had a 3 the first time Georgia closed the gap to four points.

Jacobs finished with 11 points for the Tide.

Caldwell-Pope was just 5-of-15 shooting for 14 points, but had three steals and three assists. Djurisic also had 14 points and six rebounds on 4-of-6 shooting. Brandon Morris had 11 points and hit both 3-point attempts.

Alabama held Georgia scoreless for more than 8 minutes in the first half to take a 32-18 lead into the locker room. The Tide scored 13 straight points during that stretch to take a 30-13 lead after Levi Randolph hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4:15 left.

Caldwell-Pope ended the drought on a jump shot with 2:37 left after missing seven of his first eight attempts.

Alabama's lone senior, Andrew Steele, sat out his final regular-season home game with an ankle injury.


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