Releford-Led Tide Wins In Blowout

Alabama junior guard Trevor Releford had been a mystery non-starter through the first three games of the season. He got his first start of the year in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Wounded Warriors Project in Madison Square Garden in New York Friday night and responded with an MVP performance in leading Bama to the tournament championship.

Trevor Releford, a pre-season All-Southeastern Conference selection, scored a career high 25 points as Alabama sprinted past Villanova, 77-55. The Tide is now 4-0 while Villanova dropped to 3-1.

Releford hit 8 of his 10 field goal attempts, including being 5-for-5 on three-point attempts. Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper reached double figures points for the fourth time in as many games this season, scoring 17.

Releford was named the Classic's Most Outstanding Player, while Cooper was selected to the all-tournament team.

The Tide returns to Coleman Coliseum Friday when it hosts Charleston Southern at 7 p.m. CST.

"I thought we came out tonight for 40 minutes and really did a good job," Bama Coach Anthony Grant said. "Defensively, I thought we played great. I felt like it was a pretty dominating performance by our guys and we were able maintain our composure when we got into some foul trouble the first half. The guys that came in did a great job of giving us the some energy. Through the second half we were able to build a lead. When we subbed the guys, they did a great job at building on that lead. It was great coming off of last night (a 65-62 Thursday night win over Oregon State), learning the lessons that we needed to learn from that game. We were able to come out and to close this one out strong. I'm really proud of the effort and growth of our team."

The Crimson Tide broke open a tight game early in the second half on the strength of a 23-6 run, which turned a two-point deficit (29-31) into a 15-point cushion (52-37) in a span of 9:51. Alabama never looked back, stretching its lead to as many as 24 points.

For the game, Alabama shot 59.5 per cent (25-of-42) from the floor, including 64.3 per cent (9-of-14) from three-point range. The Tide outrebounded the Wildcats, 37-27, and had a 23-4 edge in points off turnovers, despite having just one more takeaway than Villanova (15-14).

Levi Randolph finished with seven points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals, while redshirt freshman Retin Obashohan chipped in with seven points off the bench. Bama's leading scorer for the year, Trevor Lacey, was hampered by foul trouble in the first half, and finished with seven points, to go along with four rebounds and four assists.

The tournament marked the second consecutive year Alabama has won a preseason event after capturing the 2011 Puerto Rico Classic.

"This tournament was great for us because we had some challenges here," Grant said. "We learned some lessons every game and have been able to take something from it. I am proud that our guys have been willing to do that and understand we are not where we want to be and we are hoping to be better. A year ago we won a tournament in Puerto Rico and then hit some bumps. You never know where you're going to go."

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