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March 23, 2013

Big plays spark Alabama offense

TUSCALOOSA | In the game of basketball, so the saying goes, everyone makes a run.

That's been especially true this season for the University of Alabama basketball team, which has been on both ends of the coin lately. The Crimson Tide experienced a Northeastern run Tuesday night that cut a 17-point advantage to one, only to run off 22-straight points of its own.

Sometimes it's a single play that causes one team to fire off a stretch run of nearly flawless basketball. The fans can usually detect it. So can coaches.

"Sometimes, yeah, you can tell in terms of focus that your team has at a certain time and then a lack of focus, a play or two that could ignite your team or distract your team," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "As a coach, you try to help eliminate that, or ignite that if it's good, with either a time out or substitution. There are times where you can kind of get a feel either that the energy is really, really good and everybody is locked in, or for whatever reason something's not exactly where it needs to be."

Sophomore guard Levi Randolph was in the middle of UA's prolonged run against Northeastern, highlighted by his two dunks.

"Sometimes plays happen and it can either spark your team or it can bring the energy level down," Randolph said. "You just have to try and control it and play through it, or, if it's on your side, just keep going with it."

The crowd oftentimes play a key role in helping to end or keep a run going.

Alabama could be playing to a less-than-normal home game crowd given a couple of factors out of its control. The game tips off at 11 a.m., and the majority of UA students have left campus to bring spring break.

A crowd of less than 3,000 witnessed the first-round win over Northeastern.

"The thing I tell our guys is we control what we can control," Grant said. "I thought our guys did a pretty good job the other day of staying focused on the game in between the lines, and that's all we can control. Obviously, you always want a great crowd. You want that to be an affect on the game. I thought the people that were here the other day did a really good job of making their voices heard and having an impact as least from the energy level."

As for the game itself, Stanford junior forward Dwight Powell is getting most of the attention.

The 6-foot-10 First-Team All-Pac-12 selection averages 15.3 and 8.4 rebounds a game. He's recorded 10 double-doubles. Alabama knows it will have a hard time defending him.

"He's skilled on the inside and the outside," Randolph said. "We haven't played a player this good yet this year."

Grant said it will take a team effort.

"He's a guy that can play inside and out, a very skilled guy, a very athletic guy," Grant said. "He's a match-up problem. I don't think, as far as I can remember, we've faced a guy like him in terms of his skill set. We're trying to get our guys prepared to go against his as a team. Basically that's how we're going to have to face it, as a team in terms of trying to take some of his strengths away."

Reach Aaron Suttles at Aaron@TideSports.com or at 205-722-0229.

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