Rusty Tide Goes to 9-1

Alabama's commitment to its basketball players earning degrees is well-documented. And that's as good a reason as any for the way the Crimson Tide performed Saturday night. Bama had the look of a team that had been in final examinations all week in lumbering past Tennessee State, 87-79.

Alabama, ranked 15th in the nation in the Coaches Poll conducted by ESPN and USA Today and 17th in the nation in the Associated Press poll of sportswriters and sportscasters, will host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday in the final home game of the calendar year.

Although Alabama was in control throughout Saturday night's game at Coleman Coliseum, it was obviously a rusty Tide taking care of the Tennessee State Tigers. The win improved Alabama to 9-1, the best mark of any Southeastern Conference team.

Junior Chuck Davis had 24 points and 12 rebounds and came reasonably close to a triple-double with seven blocked shots in 33 minutes of play. Davis hit 10 of 17 field goal attempts.

Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton also made it into double figures, but neither had his best shooting night. Winston, who scored 19 points, was 7 of 16 from the floor, including 2 of 6 on three-point shots, and Shelton, who had 15 points, was 6 of 13 from the field, including 2 of 8 on three-pointers.

Bama did not have a good shooting night as a team, 46.5 per cent from the field and only 30.8 per cent on treys. The Tide missed its first nine three-point attempts and finished 8 of 26. Bama was also poor from the free throw line, 61.9 per cent.

But when offense is struggling, it helps to have defense. Bama had 10 blocked shots and nine steals, led by Davis and Ronald Steele with three each. The Tide held Tennessee State to even worse shooting than Alabama's, 38.7 per cent. The Tigers, who closed the gap from 25 points (80-55) with 5:10 to play to the final eight-point margin, made 9 of 25 three-point shots, 36 per cent. The Tide spent a little time in the first half in a zone defense.

Although Alabama had only a 39-33 first half lead, the Tide must have gotten a wake-up call from Coach Mark Gottfried at intermission. Bama came out and scored the first 10 points of the second half, ending any suspense.

Tennessee State had a slight advantage in rebounding, 48-44.

Steele had a game-high seven assists among Bama's 18. A missed free throw in the late going kept Steele from joining the double figures scoring club.

Tennessee State had four men in double figures, led by Bruce Price with 16 points. Eric King had 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Rod Flowers and Roshun Bowens had 11 each.

TIDE NOTES: Although Earnest Shelton had his big day, receiving his degree in business in Saturday graduation exercises in Coleman Coliseum, the guard from Memphis failed to score in the final 12 minutes and thus came up short in his quest for his 1,000th career point. The leading scorer in the SEC going into the week with a 19.4 points per game average came up seven points short of the seven he needed to reach the 1,000 mark. Redshirt freshman walk-on guard LaKory Daniels has apparently walked off. Daniels was not dressed for Saturday's game and it was reported he has elected to leave the team, citing a lack of playing time. He is the third Bama player to leave the team this year, following the departures of scholarshipped players, freshman guard Glenn Miles and redshirt freshman forward Akini Adkins. Forward Jean Felix, a junior college transfer, was held out of the game with a back injury.

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