TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama coach Mark Gottfried finally saw what he’s been seeking from Ronald Steele for three seasons.
Playing like he did during his all-conference season three years ago, Steele scored 23 points and had 10 assists to lead Alabama to an 88-77 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
At times, particularly in the first half, Steele showed the kind of speedy and aggressive play that once made him one of the best point guards in the country.
"I’ve been waiting to see that quickness and speed. It seems like mentally he turned it loose today," Gottfried said. "Early in the game it was the best I’ve seen him in a while."
Alabama (10-3) used the fast break to jump out to a 19-point halftime lead and led by as many as 30, before the Yellow Jackets (8-5) used a full-court press to rally in the final 10 minutes.
Steele was 5 of 8 from behind the 3-point line and used his speed to spark fast breaks, particularly in the first half.
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said he was impressed by what he saw from Steele.
"He’s a veteran player. He understands how to play," Hewitt said. "If he gets healthy, they’ll be a good basketball team. He’s the quickest I’ve seen him all year."
Georgia Tech held a 10-6 lead before Senario Hillman hit a jumper with 15:38 to play in the first half to start a 14-0 run. Hillman’s layup with 12:55 to play gave Alabama a 20-10 lead. The Crimson Tide stretched that lead to as many as 20 before halftime.
Much of Alabama’s first half scoring came from 3-pointers by Steele and off fast breaks sparked by his speed and accurate passing.
"I’m just getting better and better," Steele said. "I just tried to do the things we needed to win the game."
Steele said he’s not disappointed that it’s taken so long to get his game back to where it was before the injuries.
"I knew it was going to be a process," he said.
Hillman scored 18 points and Alonzo Gee had 15 points and 18 rebounds for Alabama. JaMychal Green had 12 points and Justin Knox scored 10 for Alabama.
Lawal Gani had 23 points to lead Georgia Tech. Aminu Alade scored 21 points, Iman Shumpert had 12 and Lewis Clinch added 10 for the Yellow Jackets.
The Crimson Tide continued its dominance early in the second half and stretched the lead to 73-43 with 8:39 to play.
But the Yellow Jackets outscored Alabama 15-2 over the next three minutes, using full court pressure and forcing turnovers.
The closest Georgia Tech could get was when Clinch hit a layup with 53 seconds to play to cut the Alabama lead to 10.