March 25, 2013 10:15:39 PM
By JOHN ZENOR
The Associated Press
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Levi Randolph and Retin Obasohan are two of the biggest reasons Alabama is still playing this season.
The mostly unheralded Crimson Tide guards were more likely to rack up hustle plays than points until lately, but they've led 'Bama into Tuesday night's National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal game against Maryland.
Known more for his defense and rebounding, Randolph only led the Tide (23-12) in scoring three times in his first 64 games the past two seasons. He's matched that in the last four, including both NIT games.
"Levi, the last five or six ball games has been really good," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "I think he's attacking the rim. He's being selective in terms of what he's doing from an offensive standpoint. I think he's playing with a lot of confidence right now understanding what he's able to do. That's really what it is.
"Probably the biggest thing is, Levi's an outstanding defender. If you ask him, he'd tell you that's where his focus is. He's allowing the game to come to him."
The biggest resurgence has come from Obasohan, a redshirt freshman from Belgium who seemed overmatched at times early in the season but has logged more production with Andrew Steele out for the season with an ankle injury. He had nine points in the NIT opener against Northeastern and career-highs of 14 points and 29 minutes against Stanford.
Obasohan wasn't even in the playing rotation early in the Southeastern Conference season, totaling 28 minutes and four points in the Tide's first nine league games and sitting out four of them. All four points and 19 minutes came in a rout of Mississippi State.
Grant said he never questioned that Obasohan could succeed based on both talent and work ethic. He said Obasohan reacted the right way to the dwindling playing time -- by working hard and supporting his teammates instead of getting down.
"He's the first guy out cheering for his teammates, happy in the locker room," Grant said. "Then, when I'm leaving an hour later, I hear a ball bouncing back in the practice gym and I peek my head in there and I see him in there getting those shots, coming in in the morning with one of our assistant coaches getting in shots or working on his game or watching film.
"He's just got a great approach and a great mentality to the way he's approached the game."
Both Randolph and Obasohan have been able to score or draw fouls on drives to the basket. Obasohan made all eight free throw attempts against Stanford while Randolph was 6 of 8 from the line.
They've helped off-set low scoring performances from All-SEC guard Trevor Releford, who has 19 points total in the first two NIT games.
Retin said experience and work ethic have helped Obasohan make the strides.
"Retin's a hard worker," Randolph said. "He works hard every day. He comes in before practice and stays after. The more he's playing, the better he's getting. He's just being aggressive and playing the style of play that coach asks him to play and it's all working out."
Obasohan said teammates and coaches tell him to "be comfortable and just play."
"That helps me a lot," he said.
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