Ron Steele turned in an Alabama record 18 assists as Bama opened up a lead of 59-28 at intermission and cruised to victory over the Buccaneers of Coach Murray Bartow. Alabama set schools records for three-point shots made (19) and attempted (41) and for assists (30). The 114 points was second most in school history behind the 123 scored against South Florida in the 1971-72 season and equal to the 114 scored against Morehead State in 1977.
Steele, who did not have a turnover while dishing out his 18 assists, broke the Alabama record of 17 set by Eric Richardson against Kentucky in 1984. The Southeastern Conference record is 19. Bama also broke records for team assists with the previous mark of 29 set against Auburn in 1995. Previous three-point records were 16 against Mercer in 1996 and against South Carolina in overtime last year. The previous record for three-point attempts was 37 against Mississippi Valley State in 2001.
Alabama, ranked 22nd in the nation, is now 5-1 on the season, having rebounded from its first loss, 76-79 to Washington in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout last week. East Tennessee State fell to 2-3.
Saturday Bama will be at North Carolina-Charlotte for a game that tips off at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. central time). Last year Bama held on to defeat the 49ers, 79-72, in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide will play at Alabama State in Montgomery December 7, then return to Coleman Coliseum December 11 against Temple.
Five Alabama players scored in double figures, including two who came off the bench. Earnest Shelton, who hit five three pointers in the first half, finished with 24 points, while Kennedy Winston had 21 points and Chuck Davis 17. Justin Jonus was the first man off the bench for Alabama and contributed 14 points, while Jean Felix had 13.
Alabama hit 41 of 73 field goals for 56.2 per cent from the field, including 46.3 per cent on three-pointers. Alabama also connected on 13 of 17 free throws for 76.5 per cent.
East Tennessee was not without its stars. Dillion Steed came off the bench to score a game-high 30 points and pull down a game-high 14 rebounds. Pre-season all-star guard Tim Smith had 24 points.
Winston led Alabama in rebounding with 10 as Alabama had a 46-35 advantage on the boards. Bama held ETSU to 43.2 per cent field goal shooting (32-74) and 38.5 per cent on three-point shots (5-13). The Bucs made only half their free throws, 8-of-16.
With ETSU playing zone defense much of the night, Alabama used its outside scoring options. As a result, the visitors had more points in the paint, 46-40, and more second chance points, 23-15. But Alabama had 24 points off ETSU's 14 turnovers, and the Bucs only 13 points off the Tide's 13 miscues. And with Steele pushing the ball and Bama's other players running the court well, the Tide had 16 fast break points to only four for the visitors.
ETSU led in the game for 18 seconds, putting in a layup to start the game. Seconds later Shelton buried the first of his six treys and Bama had the lead for good. Bama got it out to 26-9 and led by 31 at halftime.
Steele said, "It is a good feeling (to get the 18 assists), but a better feeling is to get back on the winning track. It's not hard to make assists the way our guys are shooting." He said he was probably more pleased with the zero in the turnovers column than with the assist mark.
Shelton said, "Steele doesn't look like a freshman. He's doing a great job defensively and he does a great job of finding the open man and then making passes."
Shelton also said that Alabama had gotten a wake-up call from Head Coach Mark Gottfried on Monday. After flying all night, the team got to Tuscaloosa early Monday morning. "We had to go to class and then we thought we'd have a light practice," Shelton said. "But Coach had looked at the tape and seen where we had been out-worked and he got our attention Monday. And he should. Against Washington we got out-worked. That should never happen. We might get beat, but we should never get out-worked."
Gottfried said of the practice, "Our goal was just to get our energy level back up."
Gottfried said, "The first thing about the game is that we played our best defense of the year. We were very good on defense, particularly in the first half. Offensively we moved the ball. Everyone was making passes to the open man. Obviously, it was a signature game for a freshman–18 assists for Ronald Steele. And then the open man was making the shot. We had very few baskets off the dribble; they were coming off passes. And when you make shots like we did, everything looks better."
Bartow said, "Alabama is a great team. We didn't think we could match up with them man (defensively), and they shot it well against our zone. I don't think I've ever coached a game when a team made 19 threes. They have a lot of great players. Steele is kind of the catalyst; 18 assists and zero turnovers."