After a thrilling buzzer-beating victory over South Dakota State on Friday night, the Alabama men’s basketball team continued its winning streak by defeating the West Alabama Tigers 80-49 Sunday in Coleman Coliseum.
The Crimson Tide advanced to 2-0 on the season and claimed its second win of the 2k Sports Classic. But this time, it was in a more convincing fashion.
“Overall, I thought the effort was very good,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “I thought we made progress today as a basketball team understanding what we’ve got to do to allow ourselves to win.”
Sophomore guard Rodney Cooper started the game by scoring the first six points for the Tide, but the evening would eventually show he would be outdone by his teammate Trevor Lacey, who scored a career high 23 points. Lacey was 5-of-5 from behind the three-point line.
Lacey credited his teammates’ ability to get in the lane and pass him the ball on the perimeter as a big reason for his success against the Tigers.
“I just feel like I’m healthy, and I’m more explosive than I was last year,” Lacey said. “I’m more confident and able to take shots that I didn’t take last year.”
Alabama created 25 turnovers alongside 13 steals on defense, but Grant was not pleased with his front court’s rebounding efforts.
“In the first half, I think our leading rebounder was Levi Randolph with four rebounds, and our front court combined for one rebound,” Grant said. “That’s unacceptable. We need to do a better job of understanding how [rebounding] impacts the game, and what allows us to be successful.”
Cooper tallied 16 points and led the Tide with seven rebounds in a strong performance. Junior guard Trevor Releford scored 14 points in 22 minutes off of the bench.
Freshman Devontae Pollard started the game and contributed with nine points and four rebounds in 29 minutes. Retin Obasohan also saw valuable playing time but got into early foul trouble.
“[Pollard] is just trying to settle down and find his way,” Grant said. “The game is at a faster speed for him right now, and he just needs to slow down a little bit. I thought, maybe at times, it slowed down for him today.”
With the win, Alabama is undefeated at 2-0, and it marks the third-straight season that Grant has led his team to victory in the first two games of the season.
“I knew coming into the game, their strengths play right into our weaknesses,” West Alabama head coach Mike Newell said. “There’s a big difference between Division I and Division II kids.”
The Tide will face Oregon State in one of the two championship rounds of the 2k Sports Tournament on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. in Madison Square Garden.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to go to New York,” Grant said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge against Oregon State. We’re ready to go.”