for this game

Steele hits winning shot to cap furious rally by Alabama

Jan 21, 2007 - 12:49 AM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Alabama coach Mike Gottfried will always remember his 42nd birthday.

Ronald Steele's off-balance 15-foot jumper from the left side as time expired lifted the ninth-ranked Crimson Tide to a thrilling come-from-behind 78-76 victory over Georgia in a battle of Southeastern Conference rivals.

Steele was double-teamed before he twisted between the defenders, moved inside the 3-point line and heaved a shot that went in.

"It was probably the worst shot we could have possibly gotten out of it," Steele said. "It's not a high percentage shot. I'd be lying if I said I thought it was going to go in."

It was the first lead of the game for Alabama (15-3, 2-2 SEC West) and capped a 16-3 run in the final 4 1/2 minutes.

"We don't really practice the one-legged, flip-high-in-the-air shot too often," Gottfried said of the winning shot.

Steele, who is considered by many to be the top point guard in the SEC, tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 54 seconds remaining.

"Not surprising, he's one of the best point guards in the country and he's a big-time clutch player," Georgia coach Dennis Felton said of Steele. "I would have liked to have seen us do a better job of not allowing him, of all people, to have the opportunity to make the plays."

Georgia's Sundiata Gaines took an awkward jumper that failed to hit the rim with 17 seconds left. Takais Brown grabbed the rebound for the Bulldogs, but did not get a shot off before the shot clock expired.

"Personally, I felt that the ball hit the rim, but they reviewed it and made the decision that it was Alabama's ball," said Gaines, who led Georgia with 22 points.

Official Tom Lopes confirmed the replay on television monitors "showed the ball nicked the rim." However, the play was dead when Lopes blew the whistle.

"Because no team had possession of the ball at the time of the whistle, you go to the possession arrow," Lopes said.

The arrow pointed to Alabama and that set the stage for Steele, who may have walked before making the game-winning shot.

"That's what my teammates keep joking about," said Steele, who finished with 13 points. "I can't say if I traveled or not on that play."

It appeared that Georgia (11-6, 3-2 SEC East) would spoil Gottfried's birthday. The Bulldogs scored the first 15 points of the game and held a 50-35 advantage at halftime after shooting 57 percent, including 9-of-15 from the arc.

"When you find yourself in a hole and you're down and somebody else is kind of having their way with you, you could easily shut it down," Gottfried said. "Our guys never did that. They kept competing the whole game."

Alabama opened the second half with a 17-7 run. Alonzo Gee capped it with a 3three-point play, pulling the Crimson Tide within 57-52 with 13:01 left.

But Georgia scored eight of the next 10 points.

A layup by Gaines increased Georgia's advantage to 73-62 with 4:34 left. But the Bulldogs managed only one basket and a free throw the rest of the way.

Mykal Riley highlighted the 16-3 run with a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws before Steele made his shot from the arc and his off-balance jumper.

"The fans helped us out a lot," Riley said. "They were like an extra person for us during the comeback."

Gee finished with 21 points and Riley added 17 for Alabama, which extended its home winning streak to 17 games.