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Alabama advances to Paradise Jam title game

Nov 20, 2006 - 1:40 AM ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands (Ticker) -- Alabama had its big man back and that spelled trouble for Iowa.

Jermareo Davidson returned from a one-game absence to score 15 points and spark a decisive second-half run that led the 11th-ranked Crimson Tide to a 70-58 win over Iowa in the semifinals of the Paradise Jam Tournament.

A 6-11 senior center, Davidson did not travel with the team here due to the death of his girlfriend last weekend in Atlanta. He missed Friday's game against Middle Tennessee State to attend her funeral.

"What a lift he gives our team emotionally," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We're just much more confident as a basketball team with him in there. I was really proud of him. I did not anticipate playing him that many minutes at all, but he said he was fresh. We'll see how he feels tomorrow (Monday). He played well."

A Wooden Award candidate, Davidson was listed as a game-time decision, but he was an imposing presence, scoring eight points in a span of 2:43 to carry Alabama to a 58-50 lead with 8 1/2 minutes left in the game.

Iowa (2-1) got within six points on a 3-pointer by Brett Wessels, but Alabama answered immediately on a shot from the arc by star guard Ronald Steele to assume a 65-56 lead with 4:11 to play. The Hawkeyes never threatened thereafter.

"It was great to be back on the floor," Davidson said. "I was looking forward to getting back to my team, just getting back into the rhythm of everything."

Guard Alonzo Gee scored 21 points and Steele added 18 for the Crimson Tide (3-0), which shot 51 percent (26-of-51) from the field. Gee and Steele combined to make 15-of-26 shots.

"Coach had told us to run the floor and just get in transition," Gee said. "That's easy buckets. Iowa is a great team. They have some really good players on their team. It was a good game. We both gave effort. We both played hard."

Davidson grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked four shots for Alabama, which will meet Xavier, a 71-66 winner over Villanova, in the championship game on Monday night.

"He played great. He stepped up and made some big plays," Gottfried said of Davidson. "He made a huge 3-pointer on the out of bounds play down there. He rebounded the ball well, defensively, offensively, had a great, great game today."

Tyler Smith scored 19 points and Tony Freeman added 16 for Iowa, which shot 38 percent (24-of-64).

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