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December 2, 2009

Tide stutters but then rolls against North Florida, 73-51

TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama men's basketball team didn't know it, but a 66-year-old doctor entertained the Coleman Coliseum crowd at halftime with a 3-point shooting exhibition Wednesday night.

Consequently, it was pretty obvious what was going through the minds of the 9,244 fans after the Crimson Tide shot just 32.3 percent during the first 20 minutes against North Florida, which rallied for a one-point lead at the break.

The second half? Well, that was a different story with the Tide routing the Ospreys for a 69-50 victory. However, that too didn't get much of an emotional response after freshman forward Tony Mitchell landed hard and awkwardly after going for a dunk and had to be helped off the court at the 9:25 mark.

He still finished 17 points and seven rebounds, which led the Tide (5-2) in both categories, and was fortunately back with teammates on the bench after being checked out in the locker room.

However, Alabama's injury concerns were further compounded by sophomore guard Andrew Steele being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower left leg after last weekend's Orlando trip. He was wearing a protective boot and is expected to be out for weeks.

"My thinking is, for us there's a level on consistency that you have to have in order to be good," Coach Anthony Grant said. "I think, as a team right now, we're figuring that out.

"We're not where we need to be."

That was especially true in the first half when Alabama uncharacteristically launched 15 3-pointers (making seven) and had nine turnovers. Lack of penetration led to the Tide being outscored in the paint 12-6, and having only three free-throw attempts.

Meanwhile, senior guard Stan Januska helped pace North Florida (1-5) to a 23-14 run late in the half, when he scored 11 of his 13 points, but the Tide eventually took control with a 11-2 stretch and kept extending the lead. Freshman forward Andy Diaz end up leading the Ospreys with 14 points.

Alabama shot 51.7 percent in the second half and finished with an edge in points off turnovers (27-14), second chances (15-6) and fast breaks (6-0), and attempted 15 free throws to finish 14-for-18 in the game.

Senior guard Mikhail Torrance had 15 points and junior guard Charvez Davis came off the bench to score 10 as Alabama's reserves netted 22.

However, none were by another person who didn't have a name on the back of his No. 11 jersey, and unlike the net-swishing doctor wasn't part of the halftime show. With Steele out, walk-on guard Chris Dixon got into the game and had a stat line of one minute, one foul.


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