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December 1, 2010

Tide sloppy, but handles South Alabama 72-50

TUSCALOOSA _ University of Alabama men's basketball coach Anthony Grant wasn't kidding when he said Wednesday night's game against South Alabama "wasn't pretty" at times.

There were stretches dominated by turnovers, sloppy passes and poor ball-handling by both sides during the Crimson Tide's 72-50 victory as part of a doubleheader sweep at Coleman Coliseum.

Yet there were also a number of impressive plays as well, like sophomore forward Tony Mitchell's alley-oop dunk that highlighted the second half.

"I tell you what, that dunk was a spectacular dunk," Grant said. "I think he had a few of them, but the particular one I'm talking about is the lob that he caught. It seemed like he paused in mid air before he threw it down. I don't think you see that very often so that was a good moment."

It was Mitchell's second straight double-double and the fifth of his career with 20 points and 13 rebounds. He led nine Alabama players in scoring while senior guard Charvez Davis had 15 to go with a career-best four steals and senior guard Senario Hillman netted 14.

But even though Alabama shot 53.8 percent from the field, its highest percentage of the season, turnovers were on everyone's minds afterward. Without suspended forward Jamychel Green -- "As of now nothing has changed," Grant said -- South Alabama's first six field goals were a result of Alabama miscues, as it jumped out to an early lead.

It lasted until the 9:56 mark when Davis, who helped give Alabama a 26-6 edge in bench scoring, made three 3-points during 20-5 stretch after which the Tide never trailed.

"At a certain point in the game I thought we were trying to play too fast and make plays that weren't there," Davis said. "We have to slow it down a little bit."

But Grant didn't quite see it that way.

"I don't think it's the style of play that's causing the turnovers, I think it's careless, immaturity," he said. "We have to have a better sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the basketball."

Although Alabama scored a season-high 23 points off turnovers, forcing 19 USA miscues, the Tide also committed a season-high 22 turnovers and gave up the ball up on 31 percent of its possessions.

Alabama's three primary ball-handlers: freshman Trevor Releford, Hillman and sophomore Ben Eblen combined for 13 turnovers.

"We just weren't valuing the basketball," said Grant, who used the word "sloppy." "We talk about that all the time, the importance of valuing the basketball and we've been bad at it. I think coming into this game, the last four games we're averaging about 17 turnovers per game and it's pretty evenly distributed.

"Last game it was our frontcourt, I think it was 12 of our 18 turnovers, or whatever it was. Today you look across and you have several guys with multiple turnovers. As a basketball team my hope is that we'll start to figure it out."

Center Augustine Rubio, who had eight points and a team-high 13 rebounds, led the Jaguars while forwards Javier Carter and Martino Brock combined for 21 points.

Meanwhile, senior forward Chris Hines had eight points, seven rebounds and a career-high five blocks.

"It's all about getting out and running and doing what we do best," Hines said. "We're a better team when we're in transition and scoring, especially with the crowd behind us I feel like when we get the crowd in the game we can beat anyone."

However, Alabama (4-3) is set to embark on a tough stretch with three of the next four games on the road against top-notch opponents, at Purdue (Saturday), Providence (Dec. 11) and Oklahoma State (Dec. 18).

"It's a chance for us to grow up some," Grant said.

Women dominate opener

Senior forward Tierney Jenkins had her 31st career double-double by halftime and finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds to help lead Alabama to a dominating 80-31 victory against Alabama State.

She also had five blocked shots to becoming just the third Alabama player to rank in the top 16 in career scoring and top 10 in rebounds, steals and blocks.

"That's really cool," Jenkins said. "I didn't know that."

The 31 points allowed are the fewest by an Alabama opponent since New Mexico State had the same number on Nov. 27, 1998. The Crimson Tide improved to 7-1, its best start since 2002.

Alabama State (1-5) ended up making just 9 of 65 shots, for 13.8 percent. With Alabama pressing the whole game it forced 29 turnovers and recorded 15 steals.

"We don't know to play any other way," Coach Wendell Hudson said. "We have not practiced yet anything in a half-court setting and we're not going to practice anything in a half-court setting."

Up 41-20, Alabama opened the second half with a 20-2 run. Junior guard Ericka Russell had 14 points and seven rebounds, freshman guard Shafontaye Myers had 13 points in just 17 minutes and freshman guard Khristin Lee netted 10.


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