LSU outlasts short-handed Alabama 67-58

The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Justin Hamilton scored 12 of his team-high 21 points in the second half, and LSU held off a feisty but suspension-riddled Alabama squad 67-58 on Saturday night.

Johnny O'Bryant III had 17 points and nine rebounds, and Andre Stinger added 15 points for LSU (14-10, 4-6 Southeastern Conference), which snapped the Crimson Tide's three-game winning streak.

Rodney Cooper scored a career-high 28 points for Alabama (16-8, 5-5), which played without its top three scorers and top two rebounders because of four suspensions in a span of six days.

Shortly before the game, Alabama announced that three regulars - including leading scorer and rebounder JaMychal Green - had been suspended earlier in the day for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Also suspended Saturday were Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele. The trio was driven home by a graduate assistant. Tony Mitchell was suspended last Monday for conduct detrimental to the team.

Mitchell is Alabama's second-leading scorer and rebounder, while Releford is the Crimson Tide's third-leading scorer.

After trailing by 16 at halftime, Alabama got back in the game with a 12-0 run to open the second half. Nick Jacobs, who had 14 points, started the surge with a jumper. Then Cooper scored 10 straight points, converting a three-point play on a jumper as he was fouled, followed by his 3-pointer, layup and short jumper in the paint to cut LSU's lead to 31-27

LSU did not score its first points of the second half until O'Bryan's layup made it 33-27 with 14:53 to go.

Alabama twice got as close as three points, the last time on a 3 by Charles Hankerson Jr. that made it 42-39 with 11:25 left. The Tigers were able to keep the Tide from getting any closer thanks to dominant play inside by Hamilton and O'Bryant, who each scored in the double digits over the crucial last 15 minutes.

Alabama was still within two possessions after Trevor Lackey's 3 with 2:27 to go, but LSU's Anthony Hickey responded with a 3 - his first basket of the game - that made it 60-51 with 1:38 left, and the Tide never threatened after that.

LSU wound up outshooting Alabama, 49 percent (24 of 49) to 40.7 percent (22 of 54) and outrebounded the Tide 34-27.

With his team undermanned, Grant went with a starting lineup of Lacey and Ben Eblen in the back court, and Cooper, Jacobs and Levi Randolph in the front court. Four of those players are freshmen who each had started at least nine games this season. Eblen, a junior, was making his first start of the campaign.

Without Mitchell at Auburn last Tuesday, Alabama still managed to win its third straight. With three more regulars missing against LSU, the Tide struggled to keep pace with the Tigers early on.

Stringer's two early jump shots, one from 3-point range, helped LSU race to a 10-2 lead. John Isaac's layup gave LSU its first double-digit lead at 21-11 and the gap got as wide as 16 points in the opening 20 minutes when Hamilton's free throws made it 31-15. That score stood until halftime, marking a season-low in points for Alabama in a first half.