Anthony Grant

Alabama wins 2K Sports Classic, but tough road awaits in SEC

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After a narrow 65-62 win over Oregon State last night at Madison Square Garden, Alabama’s backcourt combo of Trevor Releford and Rodney Cooper knew what to expect against Villanova’s young point guard Ryan Arcidiacono.

“We wanted to blitz him because he’s a great guard, so we wanted to limit his open looks,” said Cooper.

Alabama turned up the pressure on Arcidiacono and the rest of the Wildcats, speeding up Villanova’s offense and forcing 14 turnovers in a 77-55 win Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

With the victory, Alabama captures the 2K Sports Classic title.

“I thought we came out and defensively we gave a great effort,” said coach Anthony Grant. “I felt like it was a pretty dominating performance.”

The Crimson Tide led by just three points at halftime, and were tied with Villanova ten second into the second half, but a 13-4 run by Alabama over a six-minute stretch in the middle of the second half grew the lead to 15 points.

The Alabama lead reached its high-water mark with a Trevor Lacey dunk, making it 67-45.

Releford was key to the Alabama offense for the second straight night, tallying 25 points, including 5-of-5 shooting from three-point range. His efforts won him the tournament’s MVP award.

“He did a great job of being aggressive and attacking,” said Grant. “Villanova almost forces you to make a play on every possession. Having his veteran leadership out there I thought was great for our younger guys.”

In a crowded SEC this season, with Kentucky, Florida, and newcomer Missouri likely fighting it out at the top, the Crimson Tide will be battling in the middle of the pack.

What Grant’s team might lack in overall talent and depth, they help to compensate with discipline and a backcourt that is tough to match within the conference.

“I think we have potential to be a good team,” said Grant. “We are definitely a work in progress. We could have lost last night’s game very easily. I think the guys got a lot of heart.”

The Crimson Tide return home to host Charleston Southern on Nov. 23.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

UConn commit tears ACL for second time

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UConn commit Juwan Durham, a four-star big man in the Class of 2016, has torn the ACL in his right knee for the second time in seven months. The Florida native committed to the Huskies and head coach Kevin Ollie back in September. The 6-foot-9 forward is regarded as the No. 31 overall prospect in the national Class of 2016, so he can really be a force when he’s healthy.

In a report from’s Bob Putnam, UConn was notified of the injury immediately and there is no change in plans with the commitment. The Huskies also own commitments from four-star point guard Alterique Gilbert and three-star power forward Mamadou Diarra in the Class of 2016. Having Diarra, an active, rim-protecting presence, helps with Durham’s recovery, since he can provide some more front court depth.

If Durham rehabs back to full speed, UConn has a very talented power forward who was just hitting his stride in the Florida state playoffs last February. UConn has a nice class so far with this group, especially if Durham can recover, With a year to recover until next season, Durham can hopefully play during his freshman season in 2016.

VIDEO: Arizona State’s Torian Graham dunks over teammate

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Arizona State fans won’t get a chance to see Torian Graham take the floor this season, but he did sky over fellow teammates (and transfer) Shannon Evans on Friday night at the team’s Maroon and Gold Madness. The 6-foot-4 Graham is a former Buffalo commit — Evans also came from Buffalo — and both players will have to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer regulations.

Graham hasn’t had a chance to get into a Division I game, but he’ll be able to play for the Sun Devils next season. For now, fans can look forward to Graham’s athleticism on the wing in pregame dunk routines.

A former top-100 prospect, Graham also pulled off this ridiculous move in the dunk contest.