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January 3, 2012

Tide blows out GT on the road

ATLANTA | In its last tune-up before the opening of Southeastern Conference play, the University of Alabama men's basketball team regained a vital engine component and added a key spare to the rotation as the Crimson Tide cruised to a 73-48 blowout win against Georgia Tech on Tuesday night in Philips Arena.

Senior forward JaMychal Green returned to the lineup after being sidelined for two consecutive games with a shoulder injury. He didn't start but came off the bench to score nine points on 4 of 7 shooting, grab five rebounds and add two blocks and two steals in 23 minutes of action.

Green's return was noticeable for more than just his statistics line. With him on the floor, it opened up the lanes for his teammates, drawing considerable attention from the Georgia Tech front court. With that additional room to operate, Trevor Releford sliced up the Yellow Jackets defense to the tune of 17 points and four assists. Releford was perfect from the floor, hitting all eight of his attempts, including one 3-pointer.

"It was a good thing to have JaMychal back," Releford said. "I mean, it opened up a lot for me with them keying on JaMychal."

Green's layoff was evident early, but he rounded into form quickly, and just in time with Alabama traveling to Georgia for its conference opener on Saturday.

"He had some rust he had to shake off early," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "As the game went on, he got more and more comfortable in terms of what he was doing. His shoulder is a day-to-day thing. Tonight, we needed him to be back on the floor and to be in good shape. I feel like he did that tonight."

Reserve guard Andrew Steele also returned to the floor, his first action since last season. If his performance was any indication of his role on the team, Grant added a key off-the-bench player capable of contributing on both sides of the court.

Steele logged 12 minutes and scored nine points. He was 2-for-2 from the field and made all five of his free throw attempts.

"I thought he played extremely well, his first game exposure since last year in the SEC tournament," Grant said. "He gave us a big lift, I thought, defensively. You look at his productivity from a scoring standpoint; He played extremely well."

Alabama scored 29 points off of a season-high 22 turnovers, leading by as many as 27 points in the second half.

"Our defense is our identity," Releford said. "Our defense creates our offense."

Domination was the theme of the night, with UA outscoring Tech in the paint (46-26), off turnovers (29-13), second-chance points (13-1), fast break (24-10) and bench points (28-17).

Junior forward Tony Mitchell added a couple of highlight dunks to go with his 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks and freshman guard Levi Randolph added seven points, four rebounds and four assists.

Coming out of the half, Alabama missed its first three shots and turned the ball over once on its first three possessions of the second half as Georgia Tech took advantage with a 7-0 run to trim an 18-point first-half deficit to 40-29 hole in the first two minutes of second-half play.

Grant calmed his team, and the Tide opened an insurmountable lead.

Alabama trailed 7-6 early in the first half before going on a 9-0 run. UA never trailed again. After a Releford basket, Mitchell went to work with a thunderous dunk off of a miss and then knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Crimson Tide a 13-7 lead. The athletic forward added another dunk in the first half off of a Releford pass to put Alabama up 11 at 26-15.

Alabama (11-3) plays at Georgia at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0229.

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