Alabama played without three key players, all possible starters, on Monday but still managed to defeat a scrappy Montevallo Falcons basketball team by a score of 81-67. Montevallo is a Division II power, and is ranked number 4 in the nation in the preseason. The Falcons were 26-6 last season and reached the Sweet 16 before losing. 'Bama is coming off of a disappointing 13-19 year, and lost their best player when Trevor Releford graduated. Michael Kessens, Ricky Tarrant and Retin Obasohan were all held out due to various injuries. When the Tide opens the regular season on Friday, hopefully the trio can play. Kessens is most likely to not be available, and is the one the team needs the most due to a lack of depth on the inside. Tarrant is a point guard and Obasohan a combo guard. Kessens, at 6 foot 9 and 235 pounds has the size and rebounding ability that this team desperately needs.
The Tide started hot and jumped out to 10-0 and 13-2 leads before Montevallo got hot from the three point line. Levi Randolph, Shannon Hale and Rodney Cooper led 'Bama in the first half, helping stake the Tide to a 41-33 lead at intermission. Randolph had 11 points, Cooper had nine, and Hale added eight. Hale also had four fouls in the first nine minutes of the game, but continued in the game because of the lack of depth due to injury.
In the second half each time the Tide would pull out to a fairly comfortable lead, the Falcons would bounce back by bombing long threes. Troran Brown and Ryan May were not shy about firing away from long range, at times up to 30 feet. Brown scored 24 points to help keep Montevallo within striking distance. Randolph, Cooper and Hale continued to carry the Tide and after the Falcons closed within four with under two minutes left, the group closed strong to secure the final margin for the Tide.
Randolph had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Hale had 17 points and four rebounds, and Cooper chipped in 15 points and had seven rebounds. Tiny (generously listed at 5'10") point guard Justin Coleman filled in for Tarrant and led the team with six assists and added six points on a pair of long-range three pointers. Center Jimmie Taylor only had four points, but led the team with eight rebounds and added two blocked shots. Freshmen Riley Norris and Devin Mitchell added six points apiece. Senior Dakota Slaughter was forced into action because of the injuries and foul trouble and hit two long jumpers for six points of his own. The Tide's other freshman, Jeff Garrett had one point in his eight minutes of action.
For the game 'Bama shot 50%(26-52) from the field, 36% (9-25) from the three point line, and 71.4% (20-28) from the free throw line. Montevallo shot 37.7% (23-61) from the field, 35.7% (10-28) from three and 64.7%(11-17) from the free throw line. The Tide out rebounded the much smaller Falcons only 37-33, showing the need for Kessens to get well soon. 'Bama had 15 assists and 11 turnovers. The attendance for the game was listed as 9,483.
Winning by 14 points over a Divison II team isn't anything to write home about, but the Tide got solid play from their veterans and the younger players got their feet wet in a game situation. When the three injured players get back, the Tide will have very good depth with 11-12 players that can help at any given time. Kessens is a huge key because of the need for another big body down low. Taylor is bigger and stronger than last year, but still doesn't look to have offensive polish. Tarrant is a proven point guard (all conference when he played for Tulane) and will also be an important piece to add to the puzzle. Coleman is a flash, and will be a good player, but to ask him to be a full- time point guard at this point might be a bit much. Obasohan is a dynamite athlete, but not really a great basketball player. He does play strong defense and can run and jump and adds a dimension that will be needed over the long season. Coach Anthony Grant was non-committal as to when the three injured players would be back, saying they were "day to day" and not saying if they would be available for Friday's season opener against Towson. The game will tip at 8pm CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.
The schedule for the next couple of weeks looks like this:
Friday, November 14th - Towson 8pm SEC Network
Monday, November 17th - Western Carolina 8pm SEC Network
Thursday, November 20th - Southern Miss 8pm SEC Network
Monday, November 24th- Iowa State-(in Kansas City) 830pm ESPN2
Tuesday, November 25th Maryland or Arizona State (Kansas City) 6pm or 830 pm ESPNU
Roll Tide Y'all, support Alabama Basketball
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