Bama defense harasses Hornets

Coming off a nationally televised victory over then Top 5 Oklahoma, Alabama could easily have been flat versus the Alabama State Hornets. But the Tide rode a stifling defense and some excellent individual shooting performances to a comfortable 82-56 win.

"We played pretty good," was Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried's post-game assessment. "I liked our defense tonight."

With the win, fourth-ranked Alabama pushes its season record to 2-0, while Alabama State drops to 0-3. The Tide returns to action next Monday night at Coleman Coliseum, with another out-of-conference game against MTSU. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm Central Time.

Both teams played well in the early going with the Tide building a slim lead on the basis of better outside shooting. But beginning at the 12:38 mark of the first half, increased defensive pressure by the Tide keyed a 22-4 run, giving the home team a commanding lead it would never relinquish. "Our defense stepped up tonight," said Tide point guard Mo Williams. "I think defense took us over the top."

Up by 16 points at the beginning of the second half, from 14:06 until 4:53 Alabama outscored Alabma State 28-10 to salt the game away. "It was a good win for us," Gottfried said. "Hopefully, we can keep getting better."

Just before tip-off, the Crimson Tide unveiled its 2001-02 SEC Regular Season Championship banner.

Williams led all scorers with 20 points, but every Bama participant but one scored points. "We shared the ball very well," Williams said. "Everybody got onto the stat sheet. It was a solid team effort."

Earlier in the season Williams and Erwin Dudley dominated Alabama's offensive output. But other players stepped up versus Alabama State. Shooting 4-of-9 from three-point range, Terrance Meade chipped in 17 points. Earnest Shelton and Emmett Thomas added eight and seven points from the outside.

"A lot of teams are going to try to double-team Erwin down low," Gottfried noted. "We become a tough team to defend when Terrance and Earnest are making shots."

Dudley scored 12 points of his own and was the Tide's leading rebounder with eight. "Coach Gottfried always stresses to us that you've got to stay focused," Dudley said. "On any given night any team can come in and beat you."

The Tide shot 49 percent overall, 50 percent from three-point range. Alabama State was only 19-of-55 (34.5 percent) for the night.

Hornet Head Coach Rob Spivery was not pleased with his team's performance. "We knew it was going to be very difficult, coming into this ball game," he said. "We hoped to limit their second shots and keep the game close."

Alabama also won the battle of the boards, 38-29. "Alabama is a very physical team," Spivery said. "They have good scoring ability, good playmakers, and with Dudley and (Kenny) Walker on the inside, they have a good inside presence. They're going to do well this year."

Williams led the Tide with five assists. Meade and reserve forward Evan Brock had two steals apiece. Keith Gamble led Alabama State with 13 points, while Lamar Clark had six rebounds for the Hornets.

Ranked No. 4 in the most recent Associated Press poll, the Tide is being talked up by pundits as one of the elite teams in the nation. "I don't think our ranking will affect us," Gottfried said. "Our players don't really talk about it much.

"Over the last few years we feel like we've earned the right to be up there."

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