TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — Trevor Lacey nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Alabama over South Dakota State 70-67 in its season opener Friday night.
Playing in front of a crowd listed at 11,669 at Coleman Coliseum, Alabama got 18 points and three steals from Trevor Releford, 17 points from Rodney Cooper and 15 from Lacey. Also, Andrew Steele came off the bench to add 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Some thoughts from the game:
–Releford didn’t start for the second straight game, although he played 29 minutes. Alabama’s Anthony Grant said he didn’t start because of “coach’s decision.”
–This actually is a decent win for Alabama. South Dakota State had the bulk of its team back after winning 27 games last year before falling to Baylor by eight in the NCAA tournament.
–Freshman forward Devonta Pollard started and didn’t score in 14 minutes of action. He didn’t get a rebound and missed all four of his shots. Grant said this was a tough opponent for Pollard to make his regular-season debut. It did look like freshman jitters, and it’s clear he’s the type of athlete who can help Alabama a lot this year.
–Alabama has struggled with injuries. Three guys missed Tuesday’s exhibition win: Carl Engstrom (foot), Steele (groin) and backup point guard Retin Obasohan (stitches in his finger). Forward Nick Jacobs (ankle) didn’t practice this week but played Friday night.
–Steele gave Alabama a big lift off the bench, and I’m guessing he would be great in that role during the season.
–Alabama’s best lineup appeared to be Releford and some combination of Lacey, Rodney Cooper, Steele and Levi Randolph playing alongside one of the 7-footers in the middle, Engstrom or Moussa Gueye.
–Remember how Alabama couldn’t shoot all that well from behind the 3-point arc last season? That hasn’t changed much. The Tide made 6 of 21 on Friday, although Lacey has proven in high school and last year that when he finds his confidence, he’s good from anywhere.
–Alabama plays again Sunday at 4 p.m. against West Alabama at home.