TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)—With Jermareo Davidson’s shots not falling and Ronald Steele watching from the sidelines, No. 6 Alabama turned to its supporting cast to get things going.
Mykal Riley and Alonzo Gee each scored 22 points and the Crimson Tide rallied for a 75-61 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Tuesday night. It took a dominating second-half sequence to open that gap, with only four players making field goals.
“It just seemed like it was a real struggle,” Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. “I don’t think we’re going to have very many nights this year where we have that many good looks and we can’t get it to go in the hoop.”
Steele missed his second straight game with tendinitis in his right knee and the Tide (6-0) looked out of synch at times without him.
Davidson in particular struggled without his preseason All-America point guard feeding him the ball. He went 3-for-15 shooting but still had 12 points and 12 rebounds, his sixth consecutive double-double to open the season.
“It was just an off night for me,” Davidson said. “I’m not sure what was going on. I had a lot of wide open shots and they just weren’t falling for me. It won’t happen again.”
Alabama trailed by five points early in the second half, then surged ahead with a 21-4 run fueled by a smothering defense that forced seven turnovers and set up several fast-break baskets during that stretch.
“At halftime our coaches told us to come out and pick the intensity up and just play harder,” Gee said. “And that’s what we did.”
Richard Hendrix had 18 points. He, Riley, Davidson and Gee accounted for all but one of Alabama’s points. Point guard Brandon Hollinger scored the only other point on a first-half free throw.
Hendrix and Davidson had 12 rebounds apiece and Gee added 10 for a trio of double-doubles. Riley finished one rebound shy of making it a foursome.
Tony Hooper led Louisiana-Monroe (3-4) with 19 points, all but four in the first 12 minutes. Jonas Brown added 17.
Alabama shot 40 percent despite getting most of its points from around the basket. The Tide was just 4-for-19 in 3-pointers.
Louisiana-Monroe had an even worse shooting night, hitting 34 percent and just 8-of-28 3-pointers.
The game was delayed for about 15 minutes late in the first half when a campus police officer collapsed behind a basket. Campus police would not release information on his condition after the game.
The Tide went with a bigger lineup by starting the 6-foot-6 Riley, a junior college transfer, but couldn’t contain the outside shooting of their smaller opponents in the first half.
The Warhawks took a 37-36 halftime lead on Brown’s 3-pointer at the buzzer, then scored the first four points of the second half.
But the Tide forced four consecutive turnovers to spark the big run, capped by Gee’s breakaway dunk. Alabama held the Warhawks to 25 percent shooting in the second half.
Louisiana-Monroe coach Orlando Early wasn’t surprised by the turnaround. He was an Alabama assistant through last season, after all.
“They’re a top 10 team and they showed it in the second half,” Early said. “I’ve been in that locker room before when they played that way in the first half so I knew they’d come out ready to play.”
Gottfried said it was obvious Early was familiar with both himself and the Tide team.
“I would call something and then he would call something,” he said. “He knew everything we were running offensively.”
Early also knows the Tide well enough to understand the toll Steele’s absence takes on the team, everything from calming the team down during the first-half struggles to getting Davidson the ball in better position.
“If you put Steele out there on the floor, they’re a totally different basketball team,” Early said.