Tide routs Rattlers, head to Maui

This was not the same Alabama basketball team that took the Coleman Coliseum floor in a Sunday night loss to Mercer. The faces, names and numbers did not change, but the result did. Alabama evened its record and decimated Florida A&M 89-48 before a sparse crowd.

"I think the issue here tonight is, ‘Did you improve?'," said Tide coach Mark Gottfried. "I think we did improve a bit tonight, like defensive rebounding. When you lose a game like we did, it's not hard to get everybody's attention. They were grumpy the last couple of days. I've been grumpy."

"This team is learning how it needs to be effective on offense and how it needs to score."

Bama blocked six Rattlers shots and out-boarded the visitors 49-34, after being beaten badly on the glass in its opener.

Sophomore Justin Knox, who started for the first time in his career and pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds, also blocked three shots.

"Coming in, I knew my job was to contain on the defensive end, getting rebounds and blocking shots," he said. "Tonight, I thought I did a good job of that."

Gottfried said he felt Knox could make a difference on the glass, so he inserted the 6-9, 240-pounder into the starting five.

"I made that decision, because I worry about our rebounding. What you want to do is give guys an opportunity. He got an opportunity tonight, and responded," Gottfried said, adding that he intends to leave Knox in the starting lineup going forward.

From the time Senario Hillman dove for a loose ball in the opening minutes and fed JaMychal Green for a dunk to the tip-in at the half-time buzzer by Knox, the Crimson Tide (1-1) dominated the first 20 minutes en route to a 55-23 halftime advantage.

The Tide led by as many as 33 points at the four-minute mark. Gottfried played all 11 scholarship players in the first half, and worked in walk-on Greg Cage the final four minutes.

Senior guard Ronald Steele came out firing and scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half.

"(Steele) played the game the right way," Gottfried said. "He led by example."

Joining Steele in double figures were Anthony Brock (13), Green (12), sixth man Mikhail Torrance (11) and Steele's younger brother, Andrew, who scored 10 points.

"Like Knox, Andrew took advantage of an opportunity," Gottfried said.

The only Rattler in double digits was Larry Jackson, who scored 12. FAMU, which is coached by former Alabama and Auburn assistant Eugene Harris, is now 0-3.

The Tide now heads to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, where it will face Oregon at 11 p.m. Central Time Monday. A win will likely pit Alabama against top-ranked North Carolina in round two.

"That we can win three in a row: that's what you want to learn. We've got a great field out there in Maui," said Gottfried.

"We're excited, but it's a business trip," Torrance added.

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