Men's Basketball Opens With Win
Alabama had an easy time of it in its season-opening game Friday night, defeating Florida A&M 76-37, in Coleman Coliseum.
In a preliminary game, the Bama women defeated Tennessee State, 82-55, also the season-opener.
Grant gave sophomore guard Ben Eblen his first start, joining freshman point guard Trevor Releford, senior guard Senario Hillman, sophomore forward Tony Mitchell and junior post man JaMychal Green.
"Chris Hines had a medical issue yesterday and missed practice. Nothing major," Grant said. "I just put Ben in the lineup today. Ben has done a good job in practice in terms of what we asked."
The first three men off the bench, all entering around the 15-minute mark of the first half, were senior guard Charvez Davis (recovered from minor hernia surgery), senior forward Chris Hines, and freshman guard Charles Hankerson.
"(Davis) probably could have played Monday, but he was able to come back and have a couple days of good practice," said Grant. "He had no pain, and the doctors cleared him."
"I thought today our guys came out with the intensity that we needed to have at the beginning of the game. We talked about needing to put together a game of 40 minutes of intensity with our style of play."
The only other two scholarship players in uniform both got in during the fist half: junior guard Kendall Durant at the 10:16 mark, and freshman post player Jason Carter with 8:30 to go in the half. Senior walk-on Justin Luquire played the final 1:21 of the game.
Releford became the fourth true freshman to start a season-opener at point guard for Alabama, joining Ennis Whatley, Mo Williams and Ronald Steele. He scored five points and dealt three assists, and the pass that delighted the crowd the most came with 12:02 remaining in the game when Releford fed the 7-1 Engstrom for a dunk, the big Swede's first collegiate points.
Said Green, when asked to judge the jam: "Give him a ‘10.'"
Engstrom played 15 minutes, scored two points and grabbed five boards. Mitchell led ‘Bama with nine rebounds, while Hines claimed eight and Green had seven. UA out-boarded the out-manned visitors, 58-40.
Hillman led the Tide with five assists. "I think we had fun. We came out aggressive, and ready to play," he said. "In the second half, we turned it up a bit. We started guarding the 3-point line."
Red shirt sophomore guard Andrew Steele did not dress again, as he continues to rest a sore knee.
Alabama (1-0) led 34-17 at intermission, and the crowd announced at 10,313 was quite receptive to dunks by Mitchell and Green, who hammered two each in the first 20 minutes. The gathering also enjoyed the "heat check" by Davis, who nailed a pair of 3-pointers Green already had 10 of his game-high 14 points at the break.
"Its probably the most fun we've had. We played hard, and I think everybody did a great job tonight," Green said.
"I think anytime you can go out and play with the intensity and focus that you're supposed to, you're going to have fun," said Grant. "That's what makes it fun, when you play the way you're supposed to play.
"We've got a lot of room for improvement in all areas. Being able to take care of the basketball from an offensive standpoint, and from the defensive end, being able to put together a 40-minute effort. We've got room for a lot of growth."
The Tide made six of its ten free throw tries, and hit but six-for-19 behind the arc. UA had a 48-18 edge in points in the paint, a 22-2 advantage on fast break points, and the Tide bench out-scored the Rattler reserves, 34-16.
Alabama never trailed in the contest, and its biggest lead in the first half was 21 points. For the game, Bama got the advantage as high as 44 points at the 2:14 mark. Had it been a boxing match, officials would have stopped it long before that.
From the field, the Tide outshot the Rattlers, 44-23 per cent.
Other Tide players in double digits included Mitchell (12), Senario Hillman and Davis (11 each), and Hankerson with 10. The Rattlers from Tallahassee (0-1) did not get a basket until the 12:45 mark of the first half, and were led in scoring by Amin Stevens with eight points. Their first field goal was scored by 6-9, 290-pound reserve forward Cecil Bent.
The Crimson Tide will host in-state foe Troy University Monday at 7 p.m. CT.
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