Eighth-ranked Alabama completed pre-SEC basketball competition Monday afternoon with an impressive 70-55 victory over Oklahoma. The game was nationally televised and played before a surprisingly good crowd of 11,538.
"We're 0-0," said Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried. "The first portion of the season is done. Now we're getting ready to play in the best conference in America. We start Saturday."
It's not an easy start. Alabama opens league competition at Arkansas at 2 p.m. CST Saturday with regional television coverage. Bama will have its first SEC home game at 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 9, against LSU with national television coverage by ESPN2.
"I feel good about the win," Gottfried said of the Tide's 15-point victory over the Sooners. "It was a tale of two halves. I thought out intensity picked up in the second half. We got to the foul line a lot, and that helped us."
Alabama had only a six-point lead at intermission, a 27-21 margin. The Tide had led by as many as 13 points in the first half. The Tide has as much as a 21-point lead late in the second half.
Oklahoma had more points from the floor despite poor shooting by the Sooners. The visitors scored 51 points on field goals (23 of 63 for 36.5 per cent, including 5-21 three-pointers, 23.l8 per cent), while Alabama had only 48 points from the field (22-48 for 45.8 per cent, including 4-11 treys, 36.4 per cent).
"We're going to pound the ball inside," Gottfried said. "Historically we've shot a lot of foul shots and I hope that continues. And it helps when Ron Steele gets to the line. He was only 11-12 in our first 13 games and was 7-7 tonight."
Alabama connected on 22-24 free throws, 91.7 per cent.
Richard Hendrix had his fourth straight double-double (double figures in points and rebounds) with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Jermareo Davidson had 17 points, Ronald Steele 13, and Mykal Riley—despite being 0-5 on three-point shots—had 12 points.
"We can't start taking it for granted that Richard Hendrix is going to get a double-double every night," Gottfried said. "He has really been playing well. He does a lot for this team."
A concern of Alabama going into the game was Oklahoma's rebounding, and particularly the Sooners' offensive rebounding. Bama didn't really do a good job in that area as Oklahoma had a 40-31 rebounding advantage and had 22 offensive rebounds.
Hendrix said, "We lost the rebounding battle, which was disappointing, but rebounds aren't points."
Hendrix said, "We'd like to be undefeated, but we have a nice little winning streak going (six in a row) and we're playing pretty well going into conference play. SEC play is about to start, so it's time to get rolling."
The Tide defense did a fine job on Oklahoma's top two scorers, holding 6-10 center Longar Longar to only six points and shutting out Michael Neal, who missed all seven of his field goal tries, six of them three-point efforts.
Oklahoma, playing its first road game of the season, fell to 8-4. The only time the Sooners had the lead Saturday was at 6-5.
Oklahoma Coach Jeff Capel said it would have been difficult for the Sooners to defeat Alabama with "Hendrix an NBA player, Jermareo an NBA player, and Steele an NBA player. And Gee has been playing the best of all of them."
Although Alonzo Gee has been Bama's top scorer most of the year, his second consecutive sub-par game has dropped him to tied for second among Crimson Tide scorers at 14.8 points per game. He had five points Saturday.