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February 16, 2013

Hot start helps lead Alabama past South Carolina

TUSCALOOSA | For the first fifteen minutes on Saturday, Alabama looked as good as anyone.

For the rest of the game against South Carolina, Alabama looked good enough.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 23-point lead on the Gamecocks in the opening period, then went through stretches of sporadic offense but still had enough to hold off the Southeastern Conference's last-place team for a 68-58 win.

The victory pushed Alabama to 17-8 overall and have the Crimson Tide in sole possession of second place in the SEC with a 9-3 mark.

"I thought early on we got some great looks and it was good to see our guys be aggressive on offense," Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant said. "We didn't finish off the first half very well, but overall our effort and focus was pretty good."

Alabama hit six 3-point shots en route to a 32-9 led with 5:51 remaining in the first half.

"We were more aggressive, trying to score early in the shot clock rather than wait until the last 10 seconds," said UA guard Trevor Lacey, who led all scorers with 17 points.

South Carolina outscored Alabama 15-3 over the remainder of the half, and while the Gamecocks never really threatened to go ahead, they also averted a blowout and averted the wrath of their coach, Frank Martin, who had compared his team to "the living dead" after a Thursday loss to LSU.

"A lot was made about Frank's comments, but we knew they were going to be ready to play," Grant said. "He just has a lot of passion about his team."

Martin did have some favorable comment on Saturday.

"We were helping each other," Martin said. "That's foreign to this basketball team. But today they were helping each other, talking to each other. I was encouraged. They were running the plays I called, not the plays they ran on their fourth-grade team or whatever they have been running.

"After the other day, I would have put this microphone in the game if it had shown some enthusiasm."

Martin also had high praise for Grant, who has been his friend since high school,

"Last year, when he had the courage to suspend those kids instead of worrying about the NCAA Tournament told you something about Anthony," Martin said. "Keeping his focus on what's important has allowed them to become one of the elite teams in this league. They are in it. They will make a run at this league title."

Brenton Williams led South Carolina (12-13, 2-10 SEC) with 14 points. Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs each had 10 for Alabama.

Alabama senior Andrew Steele did not play in the game because of what Grant described as "discomfort in his ankle." Steele is listed as "day-to-day" going into Wednesday's game against Mississippi State.

TideSports.com Recruiting: Basketball breakdown recruiting

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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