Tide Returns Home, Gets Win Over Stillman

In a youth movement of sorts, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant started three true freshmen Friday night against Division II cross-town foe Stillman, and the result was a convincing 69-49 Alabama win. The first five consisted of freshmen Justin Coleman, Riley Norris and little-used Devin Mitchell, to go with sophomore center Jimmie Taylor and senior captain Levi Randolph.

For Norris and Mitchell, the contest marked their first collegiate starts. Both took advantage, posting career highs in scoring.

Coleman led Alabama with a season and (of course) career best 14 points. He had help from three teammates with 13 points each: Randolph (who got all his in the second half), Hale and Norris, whose total was a season and career-high. Taylor scored a dozen to give Bama five men in double digits.

“Today gave us the opportunity to get better,” said Grant. “Overall, I thought our team did a good job. We got a chance to try different lineups and play people at different positons. I thought our new starters came out with a good mindset and brought good energy on the defensive end. Overall, I think (the new starters) did a good job tonight.

“It felt good to get back out on the court (after Tuesday’s heartbreaking loss in Wichita).”

Norris added, “I got to know it was my first start earlier today. I got my mind right, and my hustle on.” Regarding the two early made shots, he said, “My teammates did a good job finding me. When you start the game with two makes, it gets your confidence level up.”

Said Coleman of his career high: “I was just glad to be out there playing, and getting my teammates involved. As a point guard, I don’t worry about how many points I score.”

Bama was led in rebounding by Taylor with nine, and he had help from Hale (eight) and Norris, who grabbed seven boards. Taylor had three blocks, while Coleman and Retin Obasohan had three steals each.

Maurice Crenshaw had 13 points to lead Stillman. The announced crowd was 9.097. The actual attendance was perhaps half that.

Alabama out-rebounded Stillman 45-40. The Tide shot 45.1 per cent from the field and held the visitors to 32.8. Bama led in paint points (34-26) and points off turnovers (20-14). Seven of the ten Tiders who saw action scored. All ten had at least one rebound.

Early on, Norris stole the show with a blocked shot, and offensive stick back, and a 3-pointer, all in the first four minutes. The freshman onslaught continued when Coleman converted an old-fashioned 3-point play. When Stillman (4-4) finally scored, the Tigers were down 8-2 at the 15:17 mark of the half.

The first four subs who entered five minutes in were senior Dakota Slaughter, redshirt junior Obasohan, sophomore Shannon Hale, and sophomore Michael Kessens. Randolph stayed in. Senior Rodney Cooper and junior Ricky Tarrant did not see action, and Grant said it was not due to injuries. “We just elected to hold them out,” he said. “It was for rest. Nothing more to that, than that.”

Stillman hit double digits with 8:49 left in the first stanza. With 94 seconds left until intermission, the visitors broke the 20-point mark. The teams went to half with Alabama (7-3) up 34-21.

In the final 20 minutes, the Tide stretched its lead to as many as 24 points with 5:54 to go. Alabama never trailed in the game.

The contest marked the first time Grant has started three freshmen since 2012 in Baton Rouge.

The Crimson Tide, now a perfect 6-0 at home this year, hosts Appalachian State at 5:30 Sunday, with the SEC Network set to televise.

It’s expected that both Tarrant and Cooper will be available for that contest.

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