TUSCALOOSA _ Who says the University of Alabama men's basketball team can't shoot?
The Crimson Tide came out firing Wednesday night, making three quick 3-pointers to spark an early 12-point run en route to a dominating 59-38 victory over Southeastern Louisiana before a sparse holiday crowd at Coleman Coliseum.
In the process, junior forward JaMychal Green returned to the starting lineup and had his best game of the season, finishing with 16 points and 15 rebounds for his second straight double-double, to go with three assists and two blocks while not getting into foul trouble.
"I would say so," Green said. "I feel like I had tons of energy tonight, I was aggressive and I was rebounding.
"It felt good to be back out on the count. I feel like it's a new start for me."
The first 3-pointer, made by senior guard Senario Hillman in the corner, was especially telling because it was set up by an extra pass from Green in the post.
"It was good to see the unselfishness that team displayed," Coach Anthony Grant said. "It was good to see the ball go inside and Mike establish himself as the best player on the floor."
However, as one player worked his way back into Grant's good graces after serving a three-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, another had a setback as leading scorer and rebounder Tony Mitchell didn't enter the game until five minutes in. The sophomore forward finished with four points and six rebounds.
"Same thing as far as the expectations for him on a daily basis as far as practice and what we have to do, accountability, responsibility, all those kinds of things," Grant said.
Freshman point guard Trevor Releford was the only other player to reach double-digits, with 10 points, with three assists and three rebounds, but Alabama had a season-low eight turnovers.
Meanwhile, the defense held SLU's leading scorer, Trent Hutchin, scoreless for the first half. The senior guard came into the game averaging 18.1 points and finished with six, half on a 3-pointer.
Instead, senior guard Gary Dixon led the Lions with 11 points, and no one had more than six rebounds. Coming in, Southeastern Louisiana averaged 80.7 points, making this its lowest scoring output of the season by 11 points (74-49 at UCF), and only shot 20.3 percent (12-of-59).
That's the lowest from the field by an Alabama opponent since North Texas' 18.8 (18-for-96) in the 1997 season opener. The Lions (5-3) scored only 15 points in the second half.
"I thought the defense set the tone tonight," Grant said.
The coach went with an eight-man rotation until just seven minutes, 44 seconds remained when he brought in 7-foot freshman center Carl Engstrom _ who had the remaining fans' full attention down the stretch. Although it appeared to be a step toward establishing roles for the second half of the season, it was also due to necessity.
While redshirt sophomore forward/guard Andrew Steele was no longer using crutches after recently having arthroscopic surgery on both knees, junior guard Kendall Durant needed them and was wearing a protective boot on his left foot.
"He suffered a fracture in his foot," Grant said, adding that he'll be evaluated later this week to see if it'll heal on its own or require surgery.
Although Engstrom was too slow on a dunk, he had three blocks and two rebounds, while Justin Luquire hit a jump shot on a play that all five players touched the ball and fellow walk-on Hunter Jeffery, wearing No. 15, played four minutes.
With the every reserve except freshman forward Charles Hankerson combining to go 2-for-13 the Tide's overall shooting percentage dropped to 42 percent, but the six 3-pointers matched the team's output over the previous 32 attempts, with five in the first half.
"We had great rhythm early in the game," Hillman said. "I was a wide open and just had to knock down the sot like everyone else."
Alabama will play Oklahoma State in the Sonic All-College Classic in Oklahoma City on Saturday. The tip is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN2.