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January 8, 2013

Missouri beats Alabama despite Releford's career night

COLUMBIA, Mo. | Playing two hours east of his hometown of Kansas City, Alabama senior Trevor Releford came to the Crimson Tide's Southeastern Conference opener with two goals in mind: a win against 10th-ranked Missouri and eclipsing 1,000 career points in the process.

Releford nearly achieved the latter in the first half alone. The former remained out of reach in an 84-68 loss to the Tigers (12-2, 1-0 SEC).

Releford ran out to 19 first-half points on 6-of-9 shooting. Releford reached the 1,000-point mark on a 3-pointer with 7:07 left in the second half, in front of nearly 30 family members and friends.

"I think it was a good opportunity to come back and play close to home, for my family to come out and see me play," said Releford, who set a career high with 26 points, "but I treated this game like any other SEC game. I just wanted to come in and get a win, and worry about the next game after that."

His 3 from the wing cut Missouri's lead to 65-59, but Alabama would get no closer.

Missouri shot 56.6 percent for the game, including 9 of 15 from 3-point range. Alabama held opponents to 30.2 percent on 3s over its first 13 games. Missouri, which entered the game shooting 34 percent on 3s, shot 60 percent on them in each half. Missouri's Jabari Brown led the way for Missouri with 22 points, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.

In his previous two games, Brown made four of 14 3-point attempts.

"Coach always tells me, 'Don't get down yourself, don't let one play discourage you,' " Brown said. "So I just had that mindset. I knew that game was history. I just had to prepare the same way going into the next game, and when I saw a couple of shots go down, it just gave me some more confidence."

Alabama coach Anthony Grant utilized a bigger starting lineup against a long Missouri team, starting freshman Devonta Pollard and sophomore Nick Jacobs to match up with Missouri's duo of Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi. That lineup didn't last long, as the Tigers stormed out to a 15-5 lead with 15:32 remaining the first half. At that time, Grant returned to his usual four-guard, one-forward lineup, and Alabama responded.

In the first half, Releford scored 19 of Alabama's 36 points, including 17 over the final 13 minutes as the Crimson Tide erased a 10-point Missouri advantage to lead by as many as three before the Tigers' shooting form returned and led 40-36 at halftime.

"Give Missouri credit," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "I thought they came out in the first half and really set the tone of the game. I was proud of our guys for the way we fought back and took the lead there, briefly, and had chances there going into the half."

Grant said he told his players to focus on defense and rebounding in the second half. Alabama finished with a 32-27 advantage over one of the strongest rebounding teams in the nation, but the defense didn't follow suit.

"Obviously, in the second half, we aren't able to do that," Grant said. "Missouri did a great job of being aggressive, attacking on their offensive end and we struggled to get stops. Defensively, they turned it up a little bit."

In the second half, Missouri shut down Releford, who didn't score his first points until a made free throw with 8:36 left in regulation."I think they just played great disciplined defense," Releford said. "They help each other. They talk, they communicated well and I wasn't able to hit a couple shots that I hit in the first half."

Rondey Cooper scored 11 points for Alabama, and Pollard had 10.

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