The Crimson Tide basketball team picked up its third straight win last night in Coleman Coliseum, pounding Toledo 83-41 to finish the non-conference portion of the schedule with an 8-6 record.
Toledo is a 2-11 team that was missing three of its top players, so this game doesn't need much breaking down. Bama dominated at the start, the middle, and even at the end, when Bama's walk-ons and other reserves were scoring on the Rockets. Player highlights included Charvez Davis shooting a sizzling 6-of-8 from the arc, continuing a white-hot streak where he's now hit 16--that's sixteen--treys in the last three games, on only 24 attempts. If that continues into the SEC season, especially on the road, it portends good things for this team. Tony Mitchell had yet another big-time stat line, tying Davis for scoring honors with 21 points and adding 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
In other personnel news, Andrew Steele returned to the floor for the first time since early last season. He looked pretty good (even knocking down his first 3-point attempt) and said afterward that he's getting close to 100%. Two freshmen, Charles Hankerson and Jason Carter, were suspended for "disciplinary reasons" but according to Grant may be available in Starkville this weekend. Starting point guard Trevor Releford only played 13 minutes due to a stomach virus. He wasn't expected to play at all but he recovered enough to contribute a few minutes. He's expected to be back to full strength by Saturday. Senario Hillman started at point guard in his place. It's safe now to assume he's beaten out Ben Eblen for that role, and it's looking like Eblen probably won't see nearly as much of the floor during SEC play now with Steele back and Hillman moving past him for backup point guard.
Despite an embarrassing performance in November's early-season Paradise Jam tournament that saw Bama drop three straight, and failing to win any of its three tough road games, Bama has been flawless at home (albeit against mostly weak competition). The 8-6 record isn't good enough to put the Tide even into tournament conversation, but the good news is that Bama is playing its best basketball of the season right now on the eve of SEC play, and Andrew Steele has returned to boost backcourt depth while JaMychal Green is finally looking like the All-SEC player we've been waiting to see for three years after coming back from suspension.
Bama opens SEC play on Saturday afternoon in Starkville against a program engulfed in drama and taking a beating from the likes of ESPN's Pat Forde. The Bullies conveniently will be returning both veteran point guard Dee Bost and controversial big man Renardo Sidney from highly-publicized suspensions to a team that has floundered in their absence. Should make for an interesting start to the conference season.