Shorthanded Tide Loses At LSU

Much has been made in recent games of the contribution of substitute players in Alabama basketball success. Hours before the start of the Crimson Tide's game at LSU Saturday, it was revealed that the bench would play an even bigger role than usual.

Prior to the start of the game, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant issued a release that JaMychal Green, Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford have been suspended indefinitely from the program for a violation of team rules. Bama was already without the services of Tony Mitchell, who had been suspended indefinitely prior to Bama's game at Auburn earlier this week.

"We are extremely disappointed in the choices and decisions made by these young men that has led to this suspension," Grant said. "Talent is a gift, but character is a choice. The consequences of their choices have negatively impacted them as individuals and the people that love and support them. Our hope is that they will be mature enough to accept responsibility for their actions and place a higher value on their character."

Alabama was playing without 45.4 points per game (out of a team average of 66.4) and without 20.4 rebounds per game (out of 36).

Those four suspended players should be ashamed to face their teammates, who fault valiantly but were too out-manned at LSU. The Tigers got the win, 67-58, in Baton Rouge, which would hardly be unexpected. With a full complement of players in early January in Tuscaloosa, Bama had pounded the Tigers, 69-53.

At the half, it looked like the payback was going to be hell. LSU had a 31-15 lead. But fueled by Rodney Cooper – one of four true freshmen to start the game for Alabama – the Tide got back to within three points in the second half before the Tigers were able to put the game away

Alabama scored the first 10 points of the second half to make it a game. The Tide continued steady play, cutting the lead to three with 11:25 remaining and trailed by only six with 2:27 to play.

Cooper, who started early in the season, then was benched, had 28 points, the most by any Alabama player in a game this season. He was 10-19 from the field, including 3-9 on three-point shots and 5-6 on free throws. He also had three rebounds and five steals. The left-handed Cooper made three driving shots with his right hand.

He was joined in the starting lineup by fellow freshmen Nick Jacobs, Levi Randolph, and Trevor Lacey, along with junior point guard Ben Eblen.

Jacobs had 14 points on 6-11 field goals and 2-3 free throws, but Jacobs and Charles Hankerson were both guilty of missing dunk shots in the midst of the Alabama comeback try.

Alabama was at a huge size disadvantage inside and it showed in that Bama's leading rebounders were Eblen and Randolph. Randolph, ordinarily a wing player, was forced to play in an inside position.

Justin Hamilton had 21 points and six rebounds to lead LSU.

With the loss, Alabama falls to 16-8 and 5-5 in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers improve to 14-10 and 4-6 in league play.

LSU out-rebounded Alabama by 34-27 and had a 13-7 advantage on second half points and a 32-26 margin on points in the paint. Both teams had 13 turnovers with Alabama getting 16 points off the LSU miscues, the Tigers getting nine points off Tide turnovers.

LSU scored the first seven points of the game and the contest was never tied and Bama never led.

Other than Cooper, the Tide backcourt couldn't throw it in the ocean. The perimeter players other than Cooper were a combined 3-21 from the field.

Alabama made 22-54 field goals for 40.7 per cent from the field. The Tide was good on 5-17 on three-point shots after going 0-5 in the first half. Bama made 9-13 free throws. LSU shot 24-49 from the field, 49 per cent, and made just 2-11 on three-point shots. The Tigers made 17-21 free throws, 81 per cent.

Alabama returns home Tuesday to face one of the league heavyweights, the Florida Gators. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. CST and ESPN will televise the game.

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