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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2006
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Alabama power forward Richard Hendrix shoots over North Carolina State's Ben McCauley during second-half action in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday. Hendrix, who played at Athens High, had 23 points, 12 rebounds and two assists leading the 10th-ranked Tide to an 82-75 victory.
AP photo by Gerry Broome
Alabama power forward Richard Hendrix shoots over North Carolina State's Ben McCauley during second-half action in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday. Hendrix, who played at Athens High, had 23 points, 12 rebounds and two assists leading the 10th-ranked Tide to an 82-75 victory.

Wolfpack can't stop Hendrix, Alabama

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

RALEIGH, N.C. — Richard Hendrix scored 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting in 10th-ranked Alabama's 82-75 victory of North Carolina State.

And imagine what would've happened if the Athens High graduate had gotten the ball as much as Ron Steele wanted to give it to him.

"At times we didn't get him the ball enough," said Steele, who had 14 points of his own. "We knew they were shorthanded with six or seven players. We wanted to get the ball inside to Richard."

Playing against the undermanned, undersized Wolfpack, Hendrix found plenty of opportunities inside, using his 6-foot-8, 265-pound frame
and touch to ward off N.C. State defenders.

His big night also included a game-high 12 rebounds for Alabama (10-1).

But when asked about how much he scored, Hendrix shrugged off the praise and gave the credit to his teammates for feeding him the ball.

When pressed further, the sophomore finally gave in: "It was my hook shot tonight. Some night, it might be another move."

Steele nearly overshadowed Hendrix's sterling performance. A preseason all-American, Steele went down toward the end of the second half with a lower leg ailment. He has struggled all year with knee tendonitis and lately with a bad ankle.

As trainers worked on Steele's left leg, which turned out to be just cramps, the Wolfpack (7-3) started chipping away at the Alabama lead, which had reached 23 points in the second half and stood at 18 with 2:34 remaining.

But with N.C. State continuing to make shots and Alabama missing free throws and committing turnovers, the Wolfpack began to dictate the final two minutes.

Brandon Costner's 3-point basket with 21 seconds remaining brought the Alabama lead down to six at 81-75.

Courtney Fells missed a 3-point basket on the ensuing play, and the Tide held on for the win.

"Without Ron Steele to take the game over, we lost our poise a couple of times," Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. "At the end of the game, we took our foot off the gas a little."

Steele said he has struggled with being in and out of practice because of the knee and ankle troubles, and that the inconsistency in his workout schedule caused the cramps.

"I was just hoping it was a cramp or something like that," Hendrix said. "He's such a floor leader and when he gets the ball he takes pressure of everybody."

Costner finished with 25 points after making five 3-pointers. Ben McCauley added 24 points, and Fells had 14.

Mykal Riley had 17 points for Alabama, and Jermareo Davidson and Alonzo Gee each added 10.

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