No. 19 Alabama coasts by North Florida, 64-44By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer Friday, Nov 11, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP)—JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Alabama’s defense are still in fine form. The offense has a ways to go.
Green scored 18 points, and Mitchell had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead No. 19 Alabama to a 64-44 victory over North Florida on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
“The defensive end of the floor really carried us tonight,” said Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant, whose team has won 21 straight home games. “I thought early in the game, we really struggled to find a flow offensively.
“I thought North Florida had a lot to do with that. Our guys settled down and we were able to show a little more patience. I thought our defense really told the story tonight.”
That’s nothing new for a Grant-led team.
Ranked in the preseason for the first time since 2006-07, Alabama was shaky offensively but still sported the defense that yielded the fewest points in the Southeastern Conference last season. Alabama held the Ospreys to 13-of-56 shooting (23.2 percent).
Green, a preseason first-team All-SEC pick, made 6 of 10 shots and had six rebounds but also committed five turnovers. He also hit the second 3-pointer of his career after missing his first attempt.
“I’m just going to try to take a smart shot,” Green said. “If it’s there I’ll take it, but I’m not going to force anything.”
Alabama started freshmen Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph. Cooper had seven points, while Randolph finished with five points and eight rebounds.
“They’re doing a great job,” Green said. “Levi and Coop, they did a good job defending the 3-point line and fighting through screens. They’re good in my book.”
Andy Diaz had nine points and eight rebounds to lead North Florida, which has lost its last six openers.
David Jeune, Jerron Granberry and Travis Wallace all had eight points, but the four top scorers were a combined 10-of-39 shooting.
The Ospreys are 0-9 against Top 25 teams.
“The only thing I didn’t expect was for us to shoot about 23 percent,” North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said. “We had to find a way to put the ball in the hole and we didn’t. A lot of that was Alabama’s defense. They played 94 feet.
“They were the fifth best defensive team (nationally) last year. They get you playing at their pace. It’s a pace you’re not comfortable with.”
Offensively, Alabama didn’t always look particularly comfortable with four new players playing 15-plus minutes.
The Tide shook off a lengthy early scoring drought to push ahead by 28 points in the closing minutes.
The Tide shot 41 percent from the floor but made 15 of 17 free throws and 5 of 16 3-pointers.
North Florida struggled in both those areas, hitting just three 3s in 21 attempts and 15 of 26 from the line.
“We missed layups and open shots,” Granberry said. “They’re tough. They’re an SEC team.
“It showed us that if we don’t go to play every game, you’re going to get your butt kicked.”
With two freshman starters, Alabama needed awhile to get going offensively and had an early scoring drought of 7 minutes, 46 seconds.
The Tide closed the first half on an 18-5 run, going up 29-16. North Florida made just five baskets in 23 attempts in the half.
Alabama added two quick baskets after halftime and the Ospreys never got closer than 16 points after that.
The Tide returned three starters but only six players. As a result four freshmen played at least 15 minutes. The most highly touted, two-time Alabama Mr. Basketball Trevor Lacey, had six points and five rebounds. He was limited over the summer after offseason knee surgery.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” Grant said. “We’re fortunate that those guys are getting valuable experience and were able to win and learn. That’s really an important thing when you have as many young guys that will be counted on as we do.”