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THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2007
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Tide players share the load to get win

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

TUSCALOOSA — Following Alabama’s 69-58 victory against Ole Miss on Wednesday, there was almost no space on the stage for all the Tide players
in the Coleman Coliseum interview room.

After Jermareo Davidson strolled in late, Mykal Riley had to sit behind Mikhail Torrance, who sat next to Brandon Hollinger and Athens High graduate Richard Hendrix, who was plopped next to Alonzo Gee.

Maybe this was fitting, considering how with All-American point guard Ronald Steele injured with a bad knee, the Crimson Tide needed contributions from everyone.

“We all feel like without Ron you have no choice but to step up your play,” said Hendrix who finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

“Our young guards stepped in. They did a great job by committee to give us what Ron Steele gives every night.”

After stopping a two-game losing streak, Alabama (20-9, 7-8 SEC) finds itself in a four-way tie atop the SEC Western Division. And with an Auburn loss against Ole Miss on Saturday, along with some odd tiebreakers, the Crimson Tide can win the title. That’s a far cry from where the team was after losing to the Tigers on Saturday.

“I truly believe we’re sitting with a chance to play for a Western Division championship and potentially an NCAA tournament berth,” Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. “Despite everything, we’re still fighting, and we’re still in the hunt.”

Against Ole Miss, Gee had 12 points and 10 rebounds, including six offensive boards. This marked his most assertive game since his 15-point, six-rebound performance at Florida on Feb. 14.

In the first half against the Rebels, Gee struggled, making 1 of 8. But almost three minutes into the second half, Gee hit a 3-point basket, and then everything else opened up.

His confidence immediately increased.

Ole Miss (18-11, 7-8) had to respect his potential to score driving to the lane or from behind the 3-point line.

“When he’s aggressive, it gives us a dimension that we didn’t have in some games,” Gottfried said. “He was phenomenal. He went after the ball. He played hard. He was everywhere, and that was huge for our team.”

Despite Gee’s sudden resurgence, Alabama couldn’t garner much of a lead against the Rebels.

And with 7:37 remaining and the Tide up 45-42, Hollinger came out of the game with his fourth foul.

That opened the door for Torrance. A freshman, he scored all eight of his points in the final four minutes of play while also passing out four assists.

Torrance added a spark, but until the 1:22 mark, Alabama was clinging to a 56-53 lead.

That’s when Riley buried a 3-point basket to put the Tide up six at 59-53.

Then on the Rebels’ next possession, Riley forced Ole Miss guard Bam Doyne to turn the ball over.

Riley got the ball to Torrance, who was fouled and hit both of his free throws with 59.8 seconds left. That put Alabama ahead 61-53 and sealed the win.

Riley finished the game with a team-high 13 points, making only 3 of 12 from beyond the arc. But he found his stroke when he needed to.

“Mykal missed a bunch of them, too,” Gottfried said. “He missed a bunch in the corner, but that one at the end, it was like, ‘Please go in,’ and we needed it so bad. You need your shooters to keep shooting and eventually, they’re going to make some shots.

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