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SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2006
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Steele returns as Alabama struggles

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Ron Steele was back on the court, dishing out no-look passes and nailing three-pointers. But there was one problem. He was doing all that for 35 minutes, thanks in part to TSU’s gutty performance in Alabama’s 78-60 win on Saturday.

With Steele out midway through the fourth quarter, the Tigers cut the Tide’s lead to 12, prompting coach Mark Gottfried to put his star point guard back in.

“I didn’t anticipate playing him that many minutes,” Gottfried said. “I was hoping I could keep him out the rest of the game, then put him back in.”

It was a far from perfect game for the Tide. It didn’t rebound well on the defensive end and was never able to put the Tigers away.

Alabama had a 24-point lead with 15:25 remaining in the second half, but let TSU creep back in. And a lot of that had to do with the rebounding. Tennessee State had 38 rebounds to Alabama’s 34.

The Tigers grabbed 19 offensive boards, which prompted Gottfried to make an interesting observation after the game.

He said Tennessee State shot 34.3 percent for the game, and if a lot of those were put-backs, imagine what they would have shot if Alabama used its size.

“Our defense isn’t bad, except we were giving them another opportunity to score,” Gottfried said. “We could block out a lot better.”

The one guy who was blocking out and playing with a high energy level was center Jermareo Davidson. Embracing his role as team leader, Davidson ran the floor, and had several emphatic put-back
dunks.

He finished the game with 22 points and eight rebounds. Mykal Riley was the Tide’s 3-point ace, going 4 of 6 as part of a 14-point day.

Sophomore forward and Athens High product Richard Hendrix got into early foul trouble. He finished with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.

Overall, Alabama was 9 of 15 from behind the arc, with Steele adding four treys.

“I kind of took what the defense gave me. They were backing off,” Steele said. “I wasn’t as explosive as I would like to be.”

Despite not playing since Alabama returned from St. Thomas last week, Steele said, his knee was still bothering him.

“It’s hard for your team to really gel and get better when one of your starters is not practicing,” Gottfried said. “We’re doing everything the doctors say do. With him not at 100 percent, it affects our team.”

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