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December 29, 2011TUSCALOOSA | For most of the first half, it was the scenario Alabama head coach Anthony Grant had warned against. The Jacksonville Dolphins came out with energy and stayed even with Alabama - until reality kicked in after halftime.
UA (10-3) held the visiting Dolphins without a point for more than eight minutes to start the second half, pulling away for a 72-55 victory at Coleman Coliseum.
Trevor Releford led Alabama with 18 points, making six of his nine shots from the floor. Tony Mitchell added 17 as UA played without leading scorer JaMychal Green (shoulder) for a second straight game.
"In the second half, I thought our focus on defense picked up," Grant said. "That's obvious if you look at their shooting numbers in the half."
The Dolphins missed their first 10 shots of the half, and finished just six of 24 from the field after intermission.
"I thought we played hard and smart in the first half," said JU coach Cliff Warren. "In the second half, we turned it over too much, but give credit to Alabama's team. I thought we missed some shots we usually make early in the half, but they speed you up."
The game was tied at 28 with 4:35 to go in the first half, but UA outscored Jacksonville 24-9 over the next 10 minutes of play to pull away.
Perhaps the game's most unexpected moment had little to do with the outcome. With 3:45 to play, the Crimson Tide's Senegalese center, Moussa Gueye, checked in for his first action of the season. Gueye, a 7-footer, tore a knee ligament in a summer pickup game.
"We've had three tough practices with him, and our trainer felt like he could go if the situation came up," Grant said. "Conditioning-wise, Moussa still has a long way to go, but he was excited about the opportunity."
Gueye grabbed one rebound in his short stint on the floor.
Meanwhile, Grant said he still has "no idea" about Green's return, although UA has five days before its next game at Georgia Tech.
"We will take it day by day and wait and see," Grant said. "So far, the team has responded well. Some guys have gotten some minutes that might not have gotten and maybe that helps us. But we know what JaMychal means and what he brings to this team."
In Green's absence, Releford and Mitchell provided much of the offensive punch.
"Mitchell was good in the first half," Warren said. "He made three 3's in the first half. It was in our scouting report to contest the 3-point shooters and I thought he got wide open looks instead. But give him credit, he knocked them down."
Delwan Graham scored 13 points to lead Jacksonville, which fell to 2-10.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.