TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Preseason Player of the Year candidate Kennedy Winston scored 24 points, leading No. 18 Alabama to a season-opening 97-66 rout of West Carolina.
Winston was nearly unstoppable against the overmatched Catamounts, making 9-of-12 shots, including all three of his 3-pointers.
Earnest Shelton and Chuck Davis added 16 points apiece for the Crimson Tide (1-0), who fell a win short of the Final Four last season, losing to eventual national champion Connecticut in the the regional finals.
Alabama shot 51.5 percent (34-of-66) from the field while holding Western Carolina to 40.5 percent (30-of-74). The Crimson Tide converted 21-of-33 free throws, compared to just 3-of-9 for the Catamounts. Alabama committed just seven turnovers.
Ronald Steele, who became just the third true freshman to start a season opener for Alabama, handed out seven assists and did not commit a turnover in 28 minutes.
Junior transfer Jean Felix added 11 points in his Alabama debut. Felix's slam dunk capped a 14-2 spurt that gave the Crimson Tide a 22-11 lead midway through the first half.
Alabama never was threatened thereafter, cruising to a 49-28 lead at the intermission. The Crimson Tide shot 59 percent (17-of-29) in the opening half.
Another freshman, Albert Weber, chipped in with eight points for Alabama.
"I thought they did a good job," Alabama coach Mike Gottfried said of his freshmen. "They've got a lot to learn and at times they looked like freshmen. But they showed that they have potential, too. I think overall the guard play was pretty good."
David Berghoefer scored 23 points for Western Carolina (0-4), which has lost its four games by an average of 18.3 points. The Catamounts dropped all three of their games in the BCA Classic.
Rans Brempong scored 11 points and Corey Muirhead added 10 for the Catamounts.