Even without Ronald Steele, Tide keep rolling
Alabama has proven it can win without preseason All-American Ronald Steele, but it would certainly like to have him back on the court.
It is uncertain if Ronald Steele will be able to play when the sixth-ranked Crimson Tide host Tennessee State on Saturday.
Ronald Steele averaged 12.8 points and a team-high 5.5 assists in Alabama's first four games, but has sat out the last two as a precautionary measure because of tendinitis in his right knee. The junior point guard averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 assists per game last season.
Alabama (6-0) easily defeated Texas Southern last Saturday without Ronald Steele, but struggled a bit in Tuesday's 75-61 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. The Crimson Tide trailed at halftime before taking control with a 21-4 second-half run.
"It just seemed like it was a real struggle," coach Mark Gottfried said. "I don't think we're going to have very many nights this year where we have that many good looks and we can't get it to go in the hoop."
Louisiana-Monroe coach Orlando Early, an Alabama assistant last season, noticed the effect of Ronald Steele's absence.
"If you put Ronald Steele out there on the floor, they're a totally different basketball team," Early said.
Mykal Riley and Alonzo Gee each scored 22 points, but Jermareo Davidson, who had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks against Texas Southern, made just three of 15 shots on Tuesday. Davidson still managed 12 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double to open the season.
"It was just an off night for me," Davidson said. "I'm not sure what was going on. I had a lot of wide open shots and they just weren't falling for me. It won't happen again."
Richard Hendrix had 18 points as he, Riley, Davidson and Gee accounted for all but one of Alabama's points.
The Crimson Tide, who are wrapping up a three-game homestand, continued their best start since they opened 2002-03 with nine straight victories. They have also won 10 in a row on their home court.
The Tigers (2-2) opened the season with losses at Western Kentucky and No. 5 Kansas, but won their next two games, including last Saturday's 49-47 victory over Towson State in the final round of the round-robin Las Vegas Invitational. Senior forward Clarence Matthews, who leads the team with 15.5 points per game, had 14 points and a career-best five blocks, including two in the final seven seconds.
Junior guard LaDarious Weaver averages 15.0 points per game and had 14 against Towson State.
"When they walk through the door, they're going to look like an SEC team physically: 6-11, 6-9, 6-7, 250; some junior college players who are excellent players," Gottfried said. "We still feel like we can still play a lot better. ... But Tennessee State is a team that I think will have a chance to win the Ohio Valley Conference."
Alabama has won each of its previous three matchups with Tennessee State, including an 87-79 home victory on Dec. 18, 2004