Georgia Tech's Glen Rice Jr. reacts after an Alabama basket in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Atlanta, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
ATLANTA -- Alabama's basketball team made a 200-mile trip east to Atlanta on Tuesday evening, and the Tide made sure the trip was well worthwhile.
Trevor Releford was a perfect 8-for-8 shooting to score a game-high 17 points and Georgia native Tony Mitchell added 14 points as the Tide rolled to its third consecutive victory, 73-48 over Georgia Tech at Philips Arena.
Tech (7-7), which dropped its third straight game, scored nine of the first 10 points of the second half to get to within 41-31, but that was as close as the Yellow Jackets would get. Alabama (11-3) picked up the next 12 points in less than four minutes, and by the time Nick Jacobs, playing just eight miles north of his high school, South Atlanta, hit a field goal at the 8:08 mark, the visitors had their biggest lead at 64-37.
"I felt good, we talked about winning that first round (of the second half)," said Tech coach Brian Gregory. "We got it down to 10, took a couple quick shots and turned the ball over and all of a sudden had a couple defensive breakdowns ... unfortunately, we weren't able to win that next round. I think that could've been big for us if we could've done that."
Tech held a brief lead early on at 7-6 on a difficult put back by Royal at the 15:34 mark. It didn't take Alabama long to take control, led by Tony Mitchell (14 points), who followed a put back dunk with a long 3-pointer, part of an 11-0 run that gave the Tide a 17-7 cushion with just under 13 minutes left in the opening half.
Kammeon Holsey, who took on the majority of the scoring load with 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first-half on 5-of-6 shooting, tried to keep Tech close with consecutive field goals to cut the deficit to 17-11, but the Tide went up by double digits for good when Levi Randolph fed Releford for a 3-pointer with 7:23 left until halftime.
The Tide, who shot 56 percent (18-for-32) from the field in the opening half, took its largest lead into the locker room when JaMychal Green, playing for the first time since missing two games with a shoulder injury, had a lay up to make it 40-22 with 25 seconds to play.
Alabama came into the game No. 12 in the country and tops in the SEC in scoring defense (56.2 points) and looked every bit the conference's best Tuesday. The Tide had 14 steals and scored 29 points off of 22 Tech turnovers.
"It's the key for us, it's where we hang our hat," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said of his defense. "I'm proud of our guys tonight, I thought we came out and played with great energy. Very good win for our team."
"We didn't do a good job of taking care of the ball, got to be a little stronger with the ball," said Gregory. "(Alabama is) a very athletic team, they are very quick off their feet. They just put you in a difficult situation."
Both teams open conference play Saturday as Alabama heads north to Athens to play Georgia at 7 p.m., while Tech hosts No. 5 Duke at Philips at 12:00 p.m.