BIRMINGHAM | The University of Alabama basketball team came into Wednesday night's game against Oklahoma State short-handed - but also hot-handed.
The Crimson Tide used sizzling shooting in the early going, leading the entire way in a comfortable 69-52 victory. The win came despite the absence of leading scorer JaMychal Green, who did not play in the game because of what UA described as a sore shoulder.
Alabama spread the offensive production evenly in Green's absence. Trevor Releford led UA with 19 points, 15 of those coming in the second half. Tony Mitchell added a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Trevor Lacey - making his first career start in Green's absence - equalled his career scoring high with 12 points.
"The thing that stands out is that we came out aggressively offensively, but what gets lost is a good defensive effort," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said.
" 'J' had not been able to practice for the past couple of days. We've listed him as doubtful. He came out for the shootaround and was able to do some things, but his shoulder was not where it needed to be.
"I thought Trevor Lacey played more minutes than he has been used to, but it was good to see he and Levi (Randolph) came out with some energy early. The challenge for our team was to do it for a full 40 minutes. Our (starters) played a lot of minutes. Tony played the whole second half. We've got to find some spot minutes for some other guys."
Lacey played 32 minutes, by far his highest single-game total of the season.
"It felt great," Lacey said of his first career start. "I came out to practice and noticed I was in the starting lineup. JaMychal came and talked to me, just told me to come out aggressive and be relaxed.
"I'm undefeated in this building," said Lacey, who led Butler High School to the AHSAA Class 4A title last season. "I wanted to keep that going."
The Crimson Tide got off to its fastest start of the season, nailing three 3-pointers in the first five minutes as part of a 16-2 opening run. Alabama maintained that lead for most of the first half, taking a 40-22 lead at intermission.
Oklahoma State (6-4) still trailed by 19 points, 49-30, with 14:15 to play ,but at that point the Cowboys went on a 9-0 run, coming as close as they had since the opening minutes. Alabama answered with a three-point play by Releford and a Mitchell dunk to re-establish a 15-point lead with 9:31 to play.
The Cowboys made a final push to pull within nine points, 56-47, with 3:43 to play, but a clutch jumper by Lacey gave UA an answer and the Cowboys finished with just two points in the final 3:55 of the game.
Le'Bryan Nash led Oklahoma State with 17 points but did not score in the final 11:24 of the game.
Alabama will return to action on Dec. 29, hosting Jacksonville.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.