March 11, 2004
By KEITH PARSONS
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA - Alabama certainly played like a tournament team.
Kennedy Winston had 17 points and the Crimson Tide hit seven of its first eight shots in a dominating 84-49 victory over Tennessee on Thursday night in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
At 17-11, with an RPI ranking of 23 at the end of the regular season, Alabama likely will get a bid to the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide made it in 2003 with a 17-12 record and a fourth-place finish in the West Division of the SEC.
Alabama was third in the West this season.
A late-season hot streak probably helps the cause, too, as does playing the toughest schedule in the nation. The Tide has won six of its past eight games, and one of the losses was in overtime to No. 4 Mississippi State.
Emmett Thomas added 16 and Earnest Shelton had 15 for Alabama, which got its most lopsided victory since pummeling Mercer 101-44 back in December.
Scooter McFadgon scored 14 points and Brandon Crump finished with 13 for Tennessee, which shot 32 percent and was outrebounded 42-28. The Volunteers (15-13) can only hope for a chance to play in the NIT for the second season in a row.
The outcome really never was in doubt after about the first 10 minutes. A jumper by Major Wingate brought Tennessee within 5-4 with 17:05 left in the half, but Shelton made a 3-pointer to start a 15-5 run.
Winston added two jumpers and a layup while the Volunteers went about 5½ minutes without scoring.
Later, C.J. Watson scored from in close to cut the lead to 20-11, but eight
consecutive points by Alabama pushed the margin to 17, and it never got smaller
than 13 the rest of the way.
The end of the first half epitomized the struggles for Tennessee. After a 3 by McFadgon made it 40-27, Winston had a putback. Crump shot an air ball from the lane on the other end, and the Tide held for the final shot.
Shelton patiently dribbled down the clock, then drove to the basket and made a layup as he was fouled with only three seconds left. He made the free throw, and Alabama led 45-27.
It got worse from there.
The Volunteers scored only six points in the first 10 minutes of the second half and fell behind by 30 points, which was enough to make coach Buzz Peterson finally take a seat on the bench.