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VCU fades late in 72-64 loss at No. 13 Alabama

Alabama forward JaMychal Green (1) shoots VCU forward Juvonte Reddic (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Alabama forward JaMychal Green (1) shoots VCU forward Juvonte Reddic (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Robert Sutton)
By John Zenor
AP Sports Writer / November 28, 2011
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—Bradford Burgess couldn't take solace from the fact that VCU hung in there with No. 13 Alabama and his former coach for 36 minutes.

The final four minutes were what bothered him after the Rams fell 72-64 to the unbeaten Crimson Tide and Anthony Grant on Sunday night.

"I'm not happy because we lost," said Burgess, who was recruited to VCU by Grant. "I don't really believe much in moral victories. We had an opportunity and we let it slip away."

Not before they left an impression on Grant, who said VCU "may be the best 3-3 team in the country, just based on what they're capable of."

JaMychal Green scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half and had 14 rebounds, and Tony Mitchell scored 13 to lead the Tide. VCU coach Shaka Smart wasn't surprised by their performances.

"I tried to explain to our guys the tape doesn't really do justice to how athletic those guys are and how active they are," said Smart, who worked with both Tide players with USA Basketball over the summer. "Green was a monster tonight. He was terrific."

Green had missed the previous game with a hip bruise but helped the Crimson Tide move to 7-0 for the first time since 2006-07. Mitchell sprained his right ankle in the previous game.

The Tide trailed VCU (3-3) by as many as six points in the second half but closed the game on a 12-5 run and allowed only one basket over the final 4 minutes.

"During the last four or five minutes of the game, our guys really stepped it up on the defensive end," Grant said.

Burgess hit three 3-pointers in the second half and scored 18 points to lead VCU, which also got 10 points from both Rob Brandenburg and Juvon te Reddic.

"Alabama deserved to win tonight," Smart said. "They played really hard and caused us some issues, particularly in the second half. They blocked six shots, but they really changed a lot more shots."

Grant led VCU to 76 wins from 2006-09 before taking over at Alabama. Smart, his successor, took the Rams even farther with a Final Four run last season, but his team's stuck at .500 despite coming off wins in two straight games against Western Kentucky.

Both teams turned up the full-court pressure at times and bank on stingy defenses that keep them going even when their shots aren't falling.

"It pretty much was like looking in the mirror and playing ourselves," Green said. "They're a very disruptive team. We couldn't run our offense the first half but the second half we executed better and just had more focus.

Burgess is the only Grant recruit who saw action for the Rams. The two shared a quick hug and chat after the game.

"He just said he loved me," Burgess said. "I told him I loved him back."

Alabama made 13 of 21 shots (62 percent) in the second half after trailing at halftime for the first time this season, 33-32. The Tide outscored VCU 40-24 in the paint, which helped overcome 1-of-11 shooting from 3-point range.

The Tide took a 66-60 lead with 2:30 left on an 8-0 run finished off by two freshmen.

Trevor Lacey drove the floor for a layup after Green's blocked shot and Rodney Cooper followed with another basket for Alabama's biggest lead to that point.

Brandenburg hit two free throws to end the string. Mitchell then made 3 of 4 free throws to stretch the lead to 69-62 with 1:32 left.

The Tide went 6 of 8 from the line over the final 1:54.

Mitchell hurt his ankle early in the previous game and limped off the court 7 minutes into the game after scoring six of the Tide's first 10 points. Green, who was 8 of 12 from the field, also spent a few minutes in the locker room with a bruised left elbow in the first half.

It didn't stop them from scoring nearly half of the Tide's points.

VCU hit 40 percent from the field but still managed to score the most points of any Alabama opponent this season.

"The second half was what killed us," Reddic said. "The first half we fought, but just to fight in the first half is not good enough. You've got to fight for the entire 40 minutes."

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