Bama Basketball Plays Defense, Too

It could not have been fun for LSU's basketball team to have to play at Alabama two days after the Fighting Tigers football team had been demolished by the Crimson Tide, 21-0, in the BCS National Championship Game. They had to expect that Bama students, back for the first day of classes, would be prepared to greet the visitors.

An early cheer from the Alabama student section erupted when LSU first crossed the midcourt line, a reference to the difficulty the LSU football team had in getting over midfield against Bama at the Superdome in New Orleans Monday night.?

But it was Alabama's basketball team that gave LSU more to worry about in Coleman Coliseum Wednesday night. Bama had excellent defense and great ball movement on offense as the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers, 69-53.

Trevor Releford had 20 points and Tony Mitchell had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Tide attack.

Alabama improved to 13-3 overall and 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU fell to 11-5 overall and 1-1 in the league.

Alabama is on the road Saturday, taking on the Mississippi State Bulldogs, perhaps the surprise of the SEC, 12-2 in pre-conference play and ranked 15th in the nation. Tipoff in Starkville is at 3 p.m. CST. Mississippi State hosts Tennessee Thursday night.

Alabama connected on 50.8 per cent of its field goals (30-59) while holding the Tigers to only 19-53 (35.8 per cent). Both teams committed 15 turnovers, but the Tide converted its opportunities into 25 points, LSU only 10. Bama also dominated in the paint with a 32-18 scoring margin and 39-29 rebounding advantage.

In addition to his double-double, Mitchell had four assists, three blocked shots, and two steals with only two turnovers. Freshman Trevor Lacey had 10 rebounds to go with his six points.

JaMychal Green looked a little rusty in his return to the starting lineup after a shoulder problem as he hit only 4-9 from the field, had nine points, and only three rebounds while committing four turnovers.

Bama didn't matched the Tide football team's 21-point margin of victory, but had a lead of that much (58-37) when Releford drove for a layup with 6:47 to play in the game.

LSU had a few brief leads in the first half, the largest margin three points at 13-10. The Tigers never led and the game was never tied after Ben Eblen made a layup with 8:11 to play to make it Alabama 18, LSU 16. The Tigers did cut a big Bama lead to only eight points in the second half, but the Tide was able to pull back out to have an easy double-digit win.

Alabama scored the first six points of the game, in part because Trevor Releford had two steals and two baskets. The Tide's press also caused havoc for LSU, and the Tigers managed to hit only one of their first seven shots. But poor Bama shooting -- primarily because of questionable shot selection -- and good LSU shooting -- the Tigers hit four of their next five shots -- thwarted any chance at a Crimson Tide runaway.

Tony Mitchell missed the last two minutes of the first half when he picked up a second personal foul, but he still had seven points and five rebounds in the opening stanza. With Releford scoring eight points and Levi Randolph hitting a buzzer-beater three-pointer for seven points, the Tide managed a 31-19 halftime lead.

Alabama went from a 16-16 tie to a 12-point halftime margin in the final eight minutes of the first half. Bama was able to pull away by increasing its shooting percentage from about 37 per cent to 48 per cent, while LSU's shooting percentage over that period fell from 43 per cent to 36 per cent.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "Both halves our defense carried us. That was the key for us. LSU is a very good basketball that has been playing very well. We knew we had to play good defense and rebound the ball.

"We understood the challenge and we met the challenge."

He said, "We got some turnovers that gave us an opportunity to get to the rim. I thought our defense really carried us tonight and that settled us down on offense."

LSU's coach was not inclined to give Alabama credit. "We got behind the eight-ball and that was the bottom line," said LSU Coach Trent Johnson. "Not taking anything away from them, but when kids miss open shots and make unforced turnovers, it is what it is."

TIDE NOTES: Senior post player JaMychal Green, who had not started the past two games because of a shoulder injury, was back with the first five. He was joined in the starting lineup by junior forward Tony Mitchell, freshmen wing players Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph, and sophomore point guard Trevor Releford.

One doesn't ordinarily think about high-scoring Mitchell as an assist man, but he had a beauty to give Alabama a six-point lead at 22-16. Mitchell grabbed an offensive rebound in traffic, dribbled outside, and then tossed a perfect alley-oop pass to Randolph for a dunk. (In the second half, Mitchell tried an alley-oop to Green, but overthrew.)

Alabama came into the game 10th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 55.9 per game, and improved slightly with the 53 points allowed. Only four of Bama's 16 opponents have scored as many as 60 points this year.

Late in the first half, with Releford shooting a free throw, Bama had only one man along the lane. But freshman Nick Jacobs managed to get the rebound even with four LSU men along the lane lines.

The CSS television broadcast crew for the game included former Alabama Coach Wimp Sanderson providing color commentary.

Alabama has won 26 of its last 27 games in Coleman Coliseum and hasn't lost on its home court to an SEC team since February 27, 2010.

Alabama now has a 101-66 margin against LSU. LSU last won in Tuscaloosa Jan. 31, 2004.

Attendance was 14,245.

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