Florida 66, Alabama 65: Initial Impressions

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The Florida Gators handed the Crimson Tide basketball team their second straight one-point loss on Thursday night in Coleman Coliseum. Roll 'Bama Roll reacts with some initial impressions...

  • Alabama lost its fifth SEC game to fall to 3-5 in league play. Of those five losses, the Tide has led at the half every single time. Three of those times Bama has lost by one point after failing to convert with possession of the ball at the buzzer. Ouch.
  • Some folks in the game thread commented that all of these close losses and frustrations remind them of the 2007 football season, Coach Saban's first year. I think there are a lot of parallels to be made. We're short on talent, struggling to adapt to a new system, and frustrations are growing after disappointing close losses to quality opponents. That year on the gridiron we showed flashes and were able to take the top two teams in the country down to the wire (#1 LSU and #2 Georgia), but just didn't have enough yet to finish the deal. Later in the season we all know what happened, as it just didn't end the way anyone wanted and there were far too many losses. This basketball season is shaping up much the same way. We just have to remember a foundation is being laid, and try to support the team as much as possible and pick up wins where we can. An NIT bid is still very possible, but we have a lot of work left to do and are only halfway through the conference season.
  • In my game preview I said the following: "we need to generate a lot of turnovers (in the range of 20 or so), limit their offensive rebounds (10 or less), and hit our 3s (make 6 or more). If we do at least two of those three, I think we win and get to .500 in the league. If we fail to do two or more of those things, I think the Gators will leave town with a win and put us in a deep hole heading into a tough road trip." I'll assess each one of those three keys in the following bullet points.
  • We hit 9 3-pointers off of 21 attempts. That's well above our average for both makes and percentage and above my threshold of 6, so mark this category down as a win. Still, we missed some wide open looks late in the game that would have certainly put us over the top.
  • We were only able to generate 11 turnovers on the day, well below what I was hoping for, so mark this one down as a loss. Give the Florida guards credit for doing a nice job handling the ball, but this was a pretty significant letdown for us defensively. We let Florida get up the floor too easily for most of the night and this allowed them to set up their halfcourt offense consistently, where they had more success against us than any of our eight SEC opponents thusfar. That fact that we held them to 66 points and consider this our worst defensive performance of the SEC slate says a lot about our defense, but we simply need to do a better job disrupting the opponent's offense than we did against Florida.
  • So that's one key where we were successful and one where we were not. The other key, preventing offensive rebounds, was very close. When the Gators had the ball down one with under 30 seconds to go, they were at 10 offensive boards, exactly the number I said we needed to hold them to. If we had indeed held them to 10, we would have barely succeeded in two of the three keys and probably barely won the game. Instead, Florida's 11th offensive rebound came with 21 seconds to go, and that led to the Gators' game winning bucket a few seconds later. So we narrowly failed in this category and narrowly lost the game as a result.
  • That deep hole I referred to at the end of the quote above from the game preview is exactly where we find ourselves now. We fell to 13-9 on the season and 3-5 in SEC play. Our next two games are both on the road against ranked teams. First up is #25 Ole Miss on Saturday in Oxford, followed by a date with #4 Kentucky in Lexington next Tuesday. If we come away from that road trip with a win, we should all be satisfied.

    In the meantime, let's quickly examine the individual contributions in Thursday's loss below the jump...
  • Mikhail Torrance had a huge game. I'm really wishing the former coaching staff had redshirted him as he sat behind Ronald Steele his freshman season. He hardly played then and we will desperately miss him next year when he's gone. He started out on fire from the arc, hitting four 3s in the first half alone to keep us out in front of the Gators in what was an uncharacteristically bad first half defensively. It was encouraging to see him step up after his meltdown at Auburn last weekend. He finished with 22 points, 5 assists, and only 1 turnover. Great game from our senior leader.
  • JaMychal Green came ready to play, and that was really nice to see. He had 8 points, 3 rebounds, and no fouls in an excellent first half. The biggest key to him unlocking his potential is his mental focus and mental toughness. I thought he was great in this regard in the first half, but then seemed to disappear in parts of the second half. He didn't demand the ball on offense and then he committed a lot of silly fouls on defense. Still, he finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 blocks. The coaching staff must work on his mental toughness for him to be the type of all-star player that he can be for us.
  • Tony Mitchell had a monster first half, going 2-for-3 from the arc including a big buzzer beater at the break to go along with picking up 5 rebounds. In the second half however he managed only one rebound and didn't score. I'm not sure if Florida did something to take him out of the game (I couldn't see, thanks to no ESPNU in Boston), but regardless he was not a factor in the second half. Anthony Brock picked up for him though in that second period, adding 8 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals all in the final period.
  • At this point we know what we're going to get from Justin Knox and Chris Hines in the post. Neither is an all-star but both do certain things well. Knox added 8 points and helped us through some tough stretches offensively when Green was out. He may be our best free throw shooter to boot. Hines didn't score but continues to start likely due to his superior quickness on defense for a big man.
  • Senario Hillman and Charvez Davis each only played 15 minutes on the perimeter, well below average for both. Davis has been alluding to some minor injuries on his Twitter feed, which many explain his lack of production and minutes in the last two games (only one 3-point attempt in each of the last two games from the team's best 3-point shooter). Hillman actually got the start today alongside Torrance, his first in several games, and hit a big 3 very early on, but then inexplicably went on to play significantly less than he normally does. Hillman has been our best perimeter defender so not having him on the floor may be part of the reason our defense wasn't quite as good as it has been the last several games.
  • Look for more analysis and a preview of the Ole Miss game soon. It's a rare quick two-day turnaround for the Tide so hopefully the players won't be able to dwell on this one for very long. Roll Tide.
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