Swarming Alabama defense sinks Shockers 70-60
Every time a Wichita State player got the ball, someone in a crimson jersey was right there in his face.
The Shockers were held to 34 percent shooting - and that was in their good half.
Tony Mitchell scored 26 points and No. 16 Alabama blocked a tournament-record 14 shots in a 70-60 win over Wichita State on Friday night.
''Their press is really good,'' Shockers 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.''
The Crimson Tide forced 18 turnovers and held Wichita State to 27 percent shooting in the second half to reach the title game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
''We saw a very good team in Alabama. Certainly give them credit,'' Marshall said. ''We did not play well enough in terms of our shooting and ballhandling to beat the No. 16 team in the country. They got us tonight and they deserve the win.
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. The Crimson Tide will play Purdue in Sunday's championship.
''That was the goal coming in and we're happy to have the opportunity to play for a championship,'' Alabama coach Anthony Grant said, downplaying the NIT rematch. ''We don't play in the past. We don't play in the future. We are focused on today.''
Toure Murry scored 21 points for Wichita State and Carl Hall grabbed 12 rebounds.
Levi Randolph had two steals and put pressure on Wichita State's ballhandlers on every changeover.
''That's what Coach tells us every day: Just bring pressure, be relentless,'' Releford said.
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.''