TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Trevor Lacey scored 17 points, and Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs had 10 each to lead Alabama to an easy 68-58 victory over South Carolina on Saturday.
Levi Randolph contributed nine rebounds as the Crimson Tide (17-8, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) won its third consecutive game, while the Gamecocks (12-13, 2-10) lost their sixth in a row.
For South Carolina, Brenton Williams had 14 points, Bruce Ellington and Laimonas Chatkevicius 11 and Eric Smith 10. Lakeem Jackson had nine rebounds.
Trevor Releford had two steals, giving him 170 for his career and moving him ahead of Robert Horry for third on the school’s all-time steals list. The junior needs seven steals to tie Senario Hillman, Alabama’s career leader.
The Tide, which had not scored more than 60 points in its last eight games, opened the game by bolting to a 32-9 lead, topped off by a field goal by Cooper at the 5:55 mark. The run was triggered by six 3-point baskets, two each by Lacey and Retin Obasohan and one each from Releford and Cooper.
“We’re obviously happy to get the win today and take sole possession of second place,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We came out with great focus. We answered the bell early. We didn’t finish the half well, but I was proud of the way we started the second half.
“We knew we had to be aggressive and try to attack them. I thought our defense created some offensive opportunities.”
South Carolina started out by missing its first eight 3-point attempts. The Gamecocks then outscored the Crimson Tide 15-5 to trim the lead to 35-24 when Ellington banked a 3-pointer just prior to the halftime buzzer.
In the second half South Carolina sliced the lead to 39-29, the closest that the Gamecocks would get, but the Crimson Tide responded with a 14-4 run to extend the lead to 53-33 on two free throws by Releford with 11:04 to go.
“The key for us was to try and flip that momentum,” Grant said. “We had a spurt there and we flipped the momentum. We did a good job of getting control again.”
Compared to the way his team had been playing lately, South Carolina coach Frank Martin, a long-time friend of Grant, was encouraged despite the loss.
“At least we found a handful of guys who had a little enthusiasm for competing today,” Martin said. “In four of our last five games we were a little lifeless. In defeat, I feel a little encouraged today.
“In 28 years of coaching I’ve never said that before. I can’t believe I’m saying that I’m encouraged by a loss, but to a certain degree I am. I’m a little encouraged today because some guys responded.”
Senior guard Andrew Steele did not play because of discomfort in his ankle, according to Grant, who said, “There was a stress reaction in his right ankle and it flared up. The medical staff and I thought it best (to rest him).”