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December 15, 2013
Without Releford, Tide stifles Charleston Southern 59-45
Alabama was tasked with halting its early-season slump without the help of its leading scorer.
So the Crimson Tide turned up the defense.
With point guard Trevor Releford sidelined, Alabama smothered a potent Charleston Southern offense into a host of season lows on the way to a 59-45 win at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday night.
Charleston Southern entered as the top scoring team in the nation at 92.1 points per game. But the Buccaneers (3-5) were limited to season lows in points, field goal percentage (32.6 percent) and 3-pointers (four).
Holding Releford out was a calculated risk for an Alabama team that entered Saturday having lost three of its last four games. A home loss to a sub-.500 team from the Big South Conference would have severely damaged its postseason resume with two proven programs - Wichita State and Xavier - on deck in the next seven days. Releford's status for Tuesday's game against No. 12 Wichita State is unknown.
While the defense was locked in, early on, Alabama looked much like a team missing its floor general on offense.
It managed just three assists on 8-of-21 shooting (38.1 percent) in the first half while committing seven turnovers. Alabama trailed 15-7 midway through the first half and wasn't able to get its lead to double digits until a Rodney Cooper 3 made it 44-34 with 7:36 left.
"When you lose a guy with that experience and that talent, it's going to take an adjustment for your team in terms of Trevor not playing tonight," said Grant, whose team shot a season-low 34.9 percent from the floor. "So I thought our guys did a good job of staying patient and staying with it. I thought we got better from an offensive standpoint as the game went on."
Without Releford's scoring, Retin Obasohan and Cooper filled the void on offense.
Obasohan - who took over the point guard duties in Releford's absence - set a trio of career highs: 22 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
Cooper was the spark off the bench. Shooting 29.6 percent from the field and 5 of 22 (22.7 percent) from 3-point range entering Saturday, Cooper found his stroke, going 6 of 11 from the field and 4 of 7 from behind the arc on the way to a season-high 16 points.
"It is a team effort," Obasohan said. "Everyone stepped up big for us. Cooper stepped up big for us. We just shared the load and picked it up as a team."
The biggest lift on this night came without the basketball.
"Very simply, we couldn't get by Alabama," Charleston Southern coach Barclay Radebaugh said. "We could not get by Alabama. Too strong, too good, too big, too well coached. And most teams in the country we'd be able to get by."
Releford, who paces the Crimson Tide at 16.4 points per game, was held out with a hip "aggravation," an injury that has bothered him for "the last several weeks," according to Alabama coach Anthony Grant. Even with a week of rest between games, Releford was still having discomfort.
"It just needs to get better," Grant said. "Just limiting his mobility a little bit, we just made a decision that we needed to let it calm down a little bit and get back. We'll take it day to day. It shouldn't be anything long-term."
"They didn't win the game on the offensive end, they won the game on the defensive end," Radebaugh said. "We lead the country in scoring, and we scored 45 points. Credit them."
NOTE: Alabama forward Nick Jacobs reaggravated a right shoulder separation. He played six minutes before the injury in the first half, but returned to the game with a brace on his shoulder after halftime. He played 18 minutes in all, scoring seven points.
"They limited some of his mobility (after halftime)," Grant said. "It will probably be a day-to-day thing, we'll just see how he reacts (today)."
Reach D.C. Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.