Tide cruises past Blue Raiders, 80-65

Fourth-ranked Alabama got balanced scoring and good Crimson Tide defense throttled Middle Tennessee State Monday night as the Crimson Tide cruised to an 80-65 win over the Blue Raiders in Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama, now 3-0 on the season, will get a good test Friday as the Tide goes to Springfield, Massachusetts, to meet Ohio State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic. The game will be nationally televised by ESPN with tip-off at 6 p.m. CST. Bama returns to Tuscaloosa Tuesday, December 3, against North Carolina-Greensboro.

"I was concerned with this game," said Bama Head Coach Mark Gottfried. "After watching MTSU on film, my guard was definitely up. They'll be a team that's going to win a lot of games. They made us play hard. MTSU was very well coached."

The victory by Gottfried's team was Alabama's 21st consecutive win in Coleman Coliseum. The Blue Raiders fell to 0-2. MTSU is coached by Kermit Davis, Jr., the son of the former Mississippi State head basketball coach.

"We got beat by a very good team," Davis said. "I am extremely proud of our effort, especially in the second half."

Senior All-America forward Erwin Dudley led the Tide with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocked shots. Kenny Walker and Mo Williams scored 14 points each, while Emmett Thomas came off the bench to chip in a dozen.

"I told Mark afterwards that I think this is his best team," Davis said. "They get great play off the bench."

The Alabama defense held MTSU to only 37.9 per cent shooting from the field, including 30.4 per cent three-point marksmanship. Additionally, Bama turned in 10 steals, six blocked shots and forced 21 turnovers.

Tide point guard Mo Williams talked about his team's defensive effort. "I think we did a great job on the defensive end," he said. "They were a very quick team, but our coaches prepared us for it in practice."

"It (defense) gave us some easy baskets, which we needed," Gottfried said. "What will dictate how good our team can become is how well we defend all over the floor. Our defense will dictate how good we are this whole year."

Bama was not particularly sharp in shooting either as the Tide hit 45.8 per cent from the field and 33.3 per cent from three-point range. The Tide's perimeter players were particularly poor. Earnest Shelton was one for eight (including one for seven on three-point attempts), Terrance Meade one for four, and even Williams shot a cool five of 13 and only two of eight on treys. Williams did have a game-high five assists.

Both teams shot free throws well, but Alabama shot more than twice as many. Bama made 18 of 23 foul shots while the Blue Raiders were good on eight of 10. Bama's big men, Dudley and Walker, did well from the free throw line. Walker was six of seven and Dudley five of six.

"I think we did a good job of defending without fouling," Gottfried said. "Plus, we did a good job of getting the ball down low around the basket."

MTSU scored a dozen points in the last few minutes as Alabama substituted freely. Bama had led by as many as 22 points. Alabama held a 42-25 halftime lead. MTSU's only lead in the game was at 5-4, and after Bama broke an 11-11 tie the Tide led the rest of the way.

The Raiders had an advantage in rebounding, 42-34. Partly as a result of 17 offensive rebounds, MTSU had 32 points in the paint to 26 for Alabama and the Raiders had 19 second-chance points to 15 for the Tide. Alabama got 18 points off turnovers to 13 for the visitors and the Tide had six fast break points, MTSU zero.

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