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Davidson, Steele lead Alabama over Tennessee State

Dec 2, 2006 - 11:07 PM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Ronald Steele made his return, although Alabama did not seem to need him.

Steele scored 12 points - all on 3-pointers - and added five assists as No. 7 Alabama remained unbeaten with a 78-60 victory over Tennessee State.

Jermareo Davidson scored 13 of his 22 points in a decisive first half for the Crimson Tide (7-0), which shot 55 percent (28-of-51) from the field, including 9-of-15 on 3-pointers.

"We did get a little relaxed," Davidson said. "That's never good. Then you start making mental mistakes. We have to work hard, just keep going forward instead of coasting."

Steele was questionable with tendinitis in his right knee that had forced him to sit out the last two games. However, the point guard started and played 35 minutes, draining 4-of-7 shots from the arc and making two steals.

"I was really excited to get a chance to play," he said. "Sitting out those two games was torture for me. I was in a little pain, but as the game went on I got better. The key thing is to keep it loose at all times."

"Ron played really well for coming back," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We're just not in a great rhythm yet. We're doing some things really well, and then we turn around and do some things poorly."

Gottfried may have been upset that his squad was outrebounded, 38-34, and missed nine free throws.

"Tennessee State is bigger than anyone we've played all year," he said.

Bigger wasn't necessarily better. Alabama held a 26-23 lead before closing the first half with a 17-7 surge as Davidson scored seven points and Steele capped it with a 3-pointer.

In the first half, Tennessee State had 13 offensive rebounds but made just 1-of-12 3-pointers, failing to cash in on extra opportunities.

"We felt like we could've been leading or close to leading at halftime, but we don't make shots," Tigers coach Cy Alexander said. "We need to get in the gym (Sunday) and just shoot, shoot, shoot."

Mykal Riley had two 3-pointers and Steele drained another in a 12-1 burst that opened the second half and gave Alabama a 55-31 cushion.

Tennessee State fought back and cut the deficit to 13 points with 12 minutes to play but got no closer. However, Gottfried was forced to keep Steele on the floor.

"I didn't want him to play as many minutes as he did," the coach said. "I thought when I took him out at the 12-minute mark I would've been able to sit him a little longer. They got it back down to 12 or 13 and I didn't like that, so I played him more than I wanted to."

Riley scored 14 points and Alonzo Gee added 11 for Alabama, which notched its fourth win in as many meetings with Tennessee State (2-3).

Clarence Matthews scored 17 points and Moraye Ivy added 15 for Tennessee State, which shot just 34 percent (23-of-67), including 5-of-23 from the arc.

"We stepped up our defense in the second half," Ivy said. "We also rebounded more and scored more transition points."

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