January 5, 2013 11:28:19 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Trevor Releford scored 18 points to lead the University of Alabama men's basketball team to a 65-45 victory against Oakland University on Saturday in its final non-conference game of the regular season.
Levi Randolph added 15 points and Rodney Cooper 11 for the Crimson Tide (8-5), while Moussa Gueye had nine rebounds and Trevor Lacey seven assists.
Alabama came into the game having lost five of its last six games, including three straight at home.
Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant was pleased with the improved performance of his team, which was coming off five losses in December, especially with Alabama set for its Southeastern Conference opener at the University of Missouri in three days.
"I thought that today our team really locked in from a defensive standpoint," he said. "I thought everybody today did a terrific job on the defensive end. Offensively we did a good job of sharing the basketball."
Trailing 10-7, Alabama went on a 20-6 run. Oakland, which shot only 23.3 percent (7 of 30) from the field in the first half -- including 0 of 5 from beyond the arc -- got to 29-23 at intermission on the strength of 9-of-10 shooting from the line and a 19-16 rebounding edge.
The Crimson Tide shot 54.2 percent (13 of 24) and blocked four shots.
"Our defensive intensity really carried us," Grant said. "Our defense created some opportunities for us to get into transition. We came out and got some defensive stops and got some 3s to go down.
"We were fortunate in that we were able to knock down some shots today."
Alabama went on a 29-13 second-half run to extend its lead to 62-40, its largest of the game, with 4:13 to go on two free throws by Trevor Lacey.
"I just took what the defense gave me," said Releford, who made 8 of 12 field goal attempts and was 2 of 4 from 3-point range. "I thought my teammates were finding me and I was able to knock down some shots."
Grant said his team had more success getting to the rim in the second half.
"The cumulative effect of the press and defensive pressure that we put on them led to some tired legs," he said.
Randolph was 6 of 11 from the floor and 3 of 5 from beyond the arc.
"A lot of the shots came from my teammates finding me," he said. "We were trying to get stops on defense and turn our defense into offense and get open looks on transition."
Duke Mondy had 11 points and Travis Bader 10 for Oakland (7-10), which had its two-game winning streak snapped. Drew Valentine contributed seven rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies.
"That wasn't a very good basketball game, at least from our standpoint. We weren't very good," said Oakland coach Greg Kampe. "We were awful. We came here expecting to win. We didn't come here to keep it close. We can't come into a place like this and shoot 23 percent in the first half. We missed point-blank shots. We were wide open. We were pathetic."
Grant felt the return of Andrew Steele, who had missed the past seven games due to injury, was important.
"I can't put a measure (on how much that helped)," he said. "His impact on this team is tremendous. He's one of those guys who leads by example. The intangibles that he brings our team has been missed."