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January 12, 2011TUSCALOOSA _ You know it's going to be a long night when the first possession in a road game results in a shot-clock violation.
Think that's bad? How about having more turnovers than baskets?
That wasn't the University of Alabama men's basketball team Wednesday night, which used its stifling defense to lead almost from start to finish at Coleman Coliseum and pull out another impressive victory in Southeastern Conference play, 57-47 victory against South Carolina.
With it, not only did the Crimson Tide improve to 9-0 at home this season (10-6 overall), but more importantly is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since 2002 and tied with LSU atop the SEC West.
"I thought there was a lot of energy from the very beginning," Coach Anthony Grant said. "We knew that South Carolina was a very good team coming off a big win (against Vanderbilt) and that we had to play extremely well.
"As always guys, it starts with the defensive end for us and tonight I thought it was an outstanding effort."
South Carolina (10-5, 1-1) finished with 20 turnovers compared to just 16 field goals made. Not only did the 14 in the first half nearly match its season average (14.7) but it tied the season high set against Radford on Nov. 19.
Overall, the Gamecocks, which coming in were averaging 73.6 points, shot just 28.6 percent (16 of 56), and scored their fewest points in six years. South Carolina was also the fifth straight opponent to be held under 40 percent.
"They're physical," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said about Alabama. "We set a bad tone for the game. We started out, I don't know, eight turnovers probably during the first 12 possessions."
Although Alabama had 16 turnovers, it came out way ahead in the long run, with an 18-6 edge in points off turnovers.
"It gave us a whole lot of confidence," sophomore forward Tony Mitchell said about the strong defensive start. He ended up recording his third double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds while junior forward JaMychal Green finished with 20 points and nine rebounds.
In his high-profile match up against San Muldrow, Green had five turnovers and the 6-foot-9 forward made six of his team's nine blocks, but Alabama had a 40-18 edge in the paint. Combined with Damontre Harris and Lakeem Jackson and South Carolina's starting three forwards scored just eight points, four by Muldrow, to go with 20 rebounds.
Alabama more than matched that, finishing with a 41-36 edge in rebounds, which left Green prouder of his defensive effort than his offensive numbers.
"Muldrow's had a lot of success with his jump hook and he rolls to his left shoulder," Grant said. "That's something from a scouting standpoint that we keyed on."
Meanwhile, in the matchup of freshman point guards, South Carolina's Bruce Ellington hit a pair of late 3-pointers to help keep his team in the game and finished with 10 points, while Trevor Releford had three points and four rebounds with four turnovers.
However, sophomore reserve Ben Eblen had four steals in just 10 minutes and his only basket was timely, combining with Mitchell's baseline dunk to help Alabama quickly answer the only time South Carolina took the lead at 19-18.
The Crimson Tide also didn't make any 3-pointers, in part because it worked the clock in the second half, and only made three attempts while South Carolina launched 18, making six.
"When you look at the effort our guys gave on the defensive end and were able to come out with a two-point win against a good opponent in this league that's really impressive," Grant said.