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January 5, 2013TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama men's basketball team opened 2013 on a good note, beating the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, 65-45, Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.
After being held to six points against Tulane in his last game, junior guard Trevor Releford led the Crimson Tide with 18 points. Sophomore guard Levi Randolph followed with 15 points as the Crimson Tide shook off a 1-5 record in December.
"I just took what the defense gave me and tried to capitalize. My teammates found me and I made the shot," Releford said.
Releford made 8 of 12 field goals, and made 2 of 4 3-pointers.
Oakland (7-10) took its largest lead at four points with 16:22 left in the first half. Randolph sunk a 3-pointer gave Alabama (8-5) the lead for good at 14-12 with 8:27 in the half. The Crimson Tide increased its advantage from there, peaking at a 22-point margin with 4:15 in the second half.
The Crimson Tide led 29-23 at halftime and went on a 10-0 run early in the second half. Oakland then cut a 45-30 deficit to 45-37 with 11:12 remaining, but Randolph and Releford responded with back-to-back 3s and Alabama's defense clamped down, allowing just three field goals the rest of the game.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant was pleased with the perseverance of his defense in making crucial stops that led to big points in transition.
"Our team responded very well," he said. "We made a lot of defensive stops. Got a couple of 3s to go down for us and help us build that lead back up. I wasn't happy when we lost our lead, but I was happy to see our team respond after that."
Alabama shot 54 percent from the field and made 6 of 16 3-pointers, a dramatic improvement from the 40 percent shooting in a 53-50 loss against Tulane on Dec. 30.
"Offensively, we did a great job sharing the ball, with 17 assists. I thought our guys played very unselfishly. They were prepared for the way Oakland was going to guard us," Grant said.
Randolph made 3 of 5 3-pointers, finishing 6 for 11 from the floor.
Randolph credited his teammates with giving the ball in position to score.
"A lot of those shots came from my teammates making good passes," he said. "I wouldn't be open without them."
After missing seven games with a sports hernia, senior guard Andrew Steele returned to provide leadership for the Crimson Tide.
"His impact on our team is tremendous. He's got an incredible ability to be one of those guys that lead by example," Grant said.
Oakland coach Greg Kampe was displeased after his team missed some easy scoring opportunities.
"We were expecting to win," he said. "You can't come here and miss point-blank shots."
Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play at SEC newcomer Missouri at 6 p.m. Tuesday.