Levi Randolph Got Message From Grant

Earlier in the week, Alabama Basketball Coach Anthony Grant remarked to media members that he'd like to see guard Levi Randolph become a bit more aggressive on the offensive end of the court. To Grant's pleasure and the misery of Mississippi State, Randolph apparently heard his coach, loud and clear.

Alabama freshman Levi Randolph torched the visiting Bulldogs for a career-high 18 points, and continued his season-long defensive prowess by adding seven rebounds and three steals in 33 minutes of playing time. He also dished out four assists (with no turnovers) as the Tide thrashed Mississippi State, 67-50, to up its record to 19-9, 8-6 in the SEC.

The 6-foot-5, 185-pound Randolph, who prepped at Madison's Bob Jones High, said, "I was just trying to be aggressive. When they double [down on the post player with the ball], it opens up a lot of things on the outside. When the shots were there, I just tried to knock them down.

"The defense just turned into a good offense for us. Once we turned up the intensity on defense, everybody got excited. Everybody just came together and played hard."

Added Anthony Grant, "I'm proud of (Randolph). Obviously, Levi, over the course of the year, has had some offensive struggles. He was aggressive out there. He's an extremely hard-working kid. He really impacted the game, as you can see by the stat sheet.

"(Randolph's) been, all year, the guy we've been able to rely on from a defensive standpoint. He's been locked in. He has the ability to take the assignment and challenge of guarding a variety of different guys in a variety of different ways. It's good to see him have some success from an offensive standpoint and see some shots go in. I'm happy for him. Sometimes, for freshmen, they just need to see shots fall."

That Randolph did, and his teammates couldn't help but notice.

"He did a great job," senior forward JaMychal Green said of Randolph. "He knocked down shots from the outside, He penetrated and hit from the inside, too. He had a great game. That's what we need out of Levi every night."

Green returned to the floor after a four-game suspension, and scored nine points in 25 minutes. His return was certainly a big story, but on this night Randolph took away the headlines.

Randolph finished the game six-for-nine from the floor, including two-for-two from 3-point land.

"He was due," Grant said. "He's worked extremely hard, and has been very positive. I'm proud of him for the effort today. It paid dividends. Dividends for the Tide, and dividends against the visitors.

"He made shots; that's the thing he did," said Mississippi State Coach Rick Stansbury of the Bama freshman. "He'd made, what, seven threes all year? (Actually, 13.) (Randolph) was two-for-two tonight. He made mid-range jump shots, and played very well for them."

One play that exemplified the effort shown lately by Randolph and his team occurred with 6:52 left, with Bama on one of its runs to pull away. Spying a loose ball in the front court, Randolph left his feet, dove on it, and fed Charles Hankerson Jr. for a lay-up and 57-39 lead.

It was a play that brought a smile to Grant's face.

"(Randolph) saw an opportunity for a loose ball, dove on it, and we converted a basket. It was probably the biggest play of the game," he said.

Alabama (19-9, 8-6 SEC) will host Auburn at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. Tide fans should feel good about their team's chances to break a six-year NCAA Tournament drought after Saturday's win, but a win against the struggling Tigers (14-14, 4-10) would help both in seeding and RPI. The Tigers fell to Arkansas Saturday, 77-71, after leading for most of the contest.

Wednesday night's halftime will feature the return of the ODK Foy Sportsmanship Trophy to Tuscaloosa. That piece of hardware goes annually to the winner of the Alabama/Auburn football game, won by Bama 42-14 in November at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

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