Bama Wins Katrina Relief Exhibition

The Alabama basketball team came to Mobile for a hurricane relief exhibition and walked away with a win, relieved they weren't playing tougher competition. Alabama scored 12 unanswered points to start the second half to pull away from a feisty Spring Hill College team, 85-64.

Mark Gottfried's 15th ranked team came to Mobile for a good cause, but the coach said his team's play was far from good. "We are way overrated," he said after the game. "We just need to get a lot better."

Billed as Coaches vs. Katrina, Alabama played the second game of a doubleheader in which all of the ticket sales were donated to hurricane relief efforts on the Gulf Coast. It is the Tide's only exhibition contest of the year.

Point guard Ronald Steele put together a big effort, and proved why he is on many preseason All-America lists. The sophomore poured in 19 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead the team.

But the Tide's newcomers may have made the biggest impact Wednesday night. Freshman forward Alonzo Gee had 15 points, and fellow frosh Richard Hendrix added 13 points on 5 for 8 shooting.

The Tide front line also came up big. Junior Jermareo Davidson posted 12 points and 9 rebounds, and senior Chuck Davis had 10 points and five rebounds in the exhibition.

Spring Hill played the Tide close throughout the first half, and even took a 17-15 lead with 9 minutes. But after a 3-minute scoring drought by both teams, an Alonzo Gee dunk seemed to give the team new life.

Gee scored again to give Bama a 19-17 lead, a lead they would never relinquish. Despite only shooting 15 percent from the 3-point stripe, and 43 percent overall, the Tide went into the break with a 35-25 lead.

It was a 4-minute span at the beginning of the second half when the Tide proved the difference between playing in the SEC and the NAIA. Steele hit a short jumper followed by a 3-pointer to put Alabama up 15, just the start of a 12-0 Crimson run. Alabama put up 50 second half points against an overmatched Badger team to walk away with the win.

The best news for coach Gottfried was the team's 50 percent shooting percentage in the 2nd half, including a stellar 53 percent from beyond the arc.

The Tide's first game in Mobile since 2003 drew nearly 9,000 fans, and Salvation Army representatives accepted a check for $77,900 before the Alabama game tipped off.

Gottfried and his wife, Elizabeth, pledged to donate $1 of their own money for every fan in attendance.

"The number of people here and the amount of money raised was phenomenal," Gottfried said. "A lot of Alabama fans were here tonight, which is good for our players."

Game officials, game day workers and others involved in the event donated their time. The building rental charge also was waived to help raise as much money as possible for hurricane relief.

Earlier in the day, the team toured some of the areas of South Mobile County hardest hit by Katrina. Most said it put basketball in perspective.

Davis said the outcome of the game was secondary to the cause, hurricane relief.

"This is probably the most important game I'll play all year," he said. "It's for a good cause, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

The win extends Alabama's record vs. Spring Hill to 9-0. The two teams have not played each other since 1964.

The Tide officially opens the season at home in the recently renovated Coleman Coliseum next Tuesday when they host Miami-Ohio in the first round of the Preseason NIT.

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