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January 3, 2011TUSCALOOSA _ For a while there Monday night, it appeared that the University of Alabama was still playing Michigan State.
After all, the final score did indicate a 42-point victory.
But two days after the football team faced the No. 7-ranked team in the Capital One Bowl, the Crimson Tide's men's basketball team dismantled a shorthanded Toledo squad that was missing three of its seven scholarship players.
Nevertheless, Alabama (8-6) will take it, especially since the Tide was also shorthand in its final tune-up for Southeastern Conference play, which will open Saturday at Mississippi State.
"Overall, I was pleased with the win," Coach Anthony Grant said. "We wanted to continue what we've done the past couple of games."
For Alabama, freshman point guard Trevor Releford saw limited action due to his recovering from a stomach bug while freshman guard Charles Hankerson and freshman forward Jason Carter didn't suit up due to disciplinary reasons. None has been ruled out for the Bulldogs.
First-year Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk suspended three players for the game for violating team rules, including starting guards Malcolm Griffin and Reese Holliday, along with backup J.T. Thomas. Griffin came in leading the Rockets (3-11) in assists and was tied in scoring with 10.2 points. Holliday was averaging 9.4 points.
Not surprisingly, their replacements, some of whom were walk-ons, struggled with ball control, making 25 turnovers while Alabama had a 13-0 edge in steals.
"That's what we live by, the defense," sophomore forward Tony Mitchell said.
With senior guard Senario Hillman running the point for Alabama, and finishing with five assists and four turnovers, the Tide kept feeding the ball inside, where Mitchell made numerous dunks including a pretty reverse slam off an alley-oop from sophomore guard Ben Eblen, to score 21 and junior forward JaMychal Green netted 14. Both had eight rebounds.
Alabama converted on 73.3 percent of its two-point attempts in the opening half and had a major 19-6 advantage in the paint (33-4 for the game). It also had an 11-0 edge in fast-break points (15-0) and 6-0 in second chances.
Senior guard Charvez Davis was also hitting, making 6 of 8 3-point attempts to also finish with 21 points.
"He had a hot hand tonight," Grant said.
The Tide had a 15-0 run the opening half and started the second half with similar 12-0 streak, but the biggest highlight may have been the return of sophomore guard/forward Andrew Steele. In his first game action of the season he played 15 minutes and had five points.
"It felt good," he said. "It felt like almost forever since I last played."
Steele had arthroscopic procedures on both knees after the season started and last year only played six games during to a stress fracture than led to a medical redshirt.
He received a nice ovation when entering the game, and again when hitting a 3-pointer.
"I wouldn't say I'm one hundred percent, but I'm getting close," Steele said.