The Alabama basketball team played probably its best game of the season last night in a 71-51 win over a very good Lipscomb Bisons team that is expected to win its conference and that had played both North Carolina and top-10 Baylor close in earlier games this year. The Tide is now 6-6 on the season with two more non-conference home games remaining before SEC play begins on January 8th.
Bama played an excellent game defensively against one of the better scoring offenses in the country throughout the contest. The Tide defense held Lipscomb's two star players in check and generated 11 steals and 10 blocks to hold back what had been a team averaging 86 points per game this season. Lipscomb's Adnan Hodzic--the second-leading scorer in the nation last season--was held to a season-low 12 points and 7 rebounds, thanks in no small part to the defensive and rebounding work of Chris Hines, who played an excellent game in those two facets despite not playing well offensively. Meanwhile Lipscomb guard Josh Slater--an all-conference player averaging 19 points, 5 assists and 8 rebounds--was held to only 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and was forced into committing 7 turnovers. The entire Bama defense did a great job keying on him whether we went zone or man. The defensive effort was so good in fact that Bama likely could have won this game against a strong mid-major opponent even without the big shooting night for Charvez Davis.
Davis's shooting night was certainly the big story, as he hit 5-of-6 attempts from the 3-point arc en route to a career-high 22 points. Three of those treys came on three consecutive possessions within a 60-second span that blew the game open and brought the small crowd of around 4,500 roaring to life (my best guess of actual attendance--I was there). Before that big run Lipscomb had cut an 18-point Bama lead down to 8 and seemed to have the momentum to at least take the game down to the wire. The flurry of Davis 3's was probably Bama's biggest and most important run of the season. Hopefully we will see some more like that as the year goes on to help us pull out some SEC wins.
Aside from the Davis storyline, Bama's "big three" players all had pretty solid nights. Tony Mitchell had one of his nice-looking stat-lines that basically puts into numbers what I saw from the stands: he was making plays everywhere on both ends. He finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. JaMychal Green continued to play like he needs to, despite sitting out a large portion of the game with foul trouble. He had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks, but could have easily hit 20, 10 and 5 had he played the whole game. Trevor Releford had only 6 points and committed 6 turnovers, although he did have 5 assists and 2 steals. Still, Releford as always was the driving force of the offense and certainly did a lot to dictate the tempo of the game. Grant continues to play him even more and put more responsibility on his shoulders as the year progresses.
Another interesting personnel note is that Grant is giving more playing time to Charles Hankerson (26 minutes) at the expense of Senario Hillman (15 minutes). Hankerson has the potential to be a solid player in years ahead, but I'm not sure I see him being a more valuable player than Hillman at this juncture. There is probably more to this, whether Hillman is nursing a minor injury we don't know about or Grant is trying to "send a message" to Hillman for something or other. Ben Eblen continues to see his minutes reduced at the backup point guard role, to the relief of Bama basketball fans everywhere.
After last night's nice win, Bama will have 3 days off for the holidays before returning to Tuscaloosa for practice in preparation for next Tuesday's home game against Pepperdine.