November 4, 2006

Alabama downs D-II power Montevallo

Before a crowd of over 4,000 fans the Crimson Tide basketball team overcame a slew of turnovers and the absence of All-American point guard Ronald Steele to down Division II powerhouse Montevallo 81-72 in an exhibition game.

"When we scheduled Montevallo, we knew that we'd have our hands full," said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried "Playing without Ron, in a way, was good for our team. It's what we needed. So we learned we have a lot of areas where we've got to get better. I think was good for some of these young guys. People forget how young of a basketball team we are. It's good for some of these young guys to get in those situations early, with the time and the score and how important a possession is at a certain point in the game. I feel like overall, there were some good things in the game tonight."

Steele sat the game out due to some mild tendonitis in his right knee. Gottfried said that Steele's tendonitis would not have prevented him from playing were it a regular season game but that it seemed like a good opportunity both to rest his star player and to test the rest of his squad.

"I felt it would be good to play without him for our team, to see how our team responded without him," Gottfried said. "We turned the ball over 24 times without him in the game and that was disappointing. But we're going to find ourselves at times without Ronald Steele. With Brandon Hollinger and Mikhail Torrance handling the ball we had some good things happen but there were a lot of turnovers."

The Falcons kept things close with the Tide throughout the entire match, tying the game at 14-14 early and again at 41-41 in the second half. Strong play from Alabama's big men in the second half, particularly Richard Hendrix who led the Tide with 19 points and 15 rebounds, allowed the Tide to pull away as the game went on.

"Richard played really well," said Gottfried. "They had a hard time keeping him off the backboard. A year ago, in an exhibition game I'm not sure he could have done that. He bailed us out a number of times tonight and showed some good leadership out there."

Forward Jermareo Davidson also put in a strong performance for the Tide putting up 14 points and 12 rebounds while sophomore Alonzo Gee contributed 17 points and 9 rebounds. Also putting up double-digits were sophomore guard Brandon Hollinger with 12 points and 5 assists, and junior college transfer Mykal Riley who put up 10 points and hauled in 8 rebounds.

"Playing without Ron is difficult," said Hendrix. "We've got to give Montevallo credit, they're a great team on the Division II level and just a good basketball team period. I thought our other guys stepped up at guard and handled the position really well."

The Tide players said their sloppiness in the first half brought some harsh words from Gottfried in the locker room at halftime but the an improved performance in the second half seemed to appease their coach a bit.

"He gave us a speech at halftime telling us we had to cut down on our turnovers," Hendrix said. "We had a lot of them tonight and we'll eliminate that with hard work in the gym and practice."

Montevallo, who advanced to the Division II Elite 8 last season, kept the pressure on the Tide all night coming up with 15 steals and 15 defensive rebounds. Guard Greg Brown led the Falcons with 24 points while Division II All-American forward Marcus Kennedy contributed 14.

"We're going to play some teams in December that won't be as good as Montevallo. This is a good basketball team. It's what this team needed. It was a good challenge and we had to play hard to win."

Notes and Quotes

* Kennedy graduated two years ahead of Steele at John Carroll Catholic in Birmingham and has watched his former teammate mature into one of the nation's best players over the last few years.

"I've been keeping track of him his whole college career and every year he's just gotten better and better," Kennedy said. "I'm really proud of him."

* Gottfried did not play freshmen Verice Cloyd, Justin Tubbs and Avery Jukes but said he has not made any decisions to redshirt any of his young players.

"I'm not planning on redshirting anybody right now. It's so early still and you never know what is going to happen so it's hard to make those decisions. I told the guys that didn't play today, keep your head up, don't get down. Next weekend could be a completely different situation."

* Steele's right knee did not prevent him from jumping out of his seat to celebrate several second half dunks by his teammates and with a few more days of rest Gottfried believes Steele will be back to full health.

"We gave him yesterday off and we'll give him tomorrow off which will give him four days in a row."

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