The Crimson Tide basketball team improved to 5-5 on the season with a 59-38 win over the Southeastern Louisiana Lions last night in Coleman Coliseum. The sparse holiday crowd saw the Crimson Tide get off to an uncharacteristically hot shooting start, which combined with a more characteristic strong defensive performance led to a comfortable Alabama win.
Bama was able to win this game comfortably and do so while "looking good" for two primary reasons. First, the team was able to knock down 6 of its 12 3-point attempts in non-garbage time, well above the team average for both makes and percentage. Bama's inability to hit 3-point shots has cost the team at least a couple of losses so far, and it cannot be emphasized enough just how big a difference shooting well from the perimeter can make. Second, the Tide was able to hold their turnovers well below the team's season average, depriving the Lions of easy baskets in transition.
Aside from those two primary factors, the Lions were unable to prevent the Bama offense from getting the ball inside to JaMychal Green, and from there he made them pay in multiple ways. On two early possessions Green absorbed the double team and kicked out to open shooters who nailed their attempts and helped the Tide build up a quick lead. Green went on to have a monster game with 16 points and 15 rebounds--including 3 assists and 2 blocks. Granted the opponent wasn't particularly strong, but the JaMychal Green we saw last night was the JaMychal Green we need to see for the remainder of the season if we hope to improve on our slow start as a team. Green was active and affecting the game on both ends of the court, and was a beast on the glass. It was his second straight encouraging performance following his 3-game suspension.
Grant was actively encouraging his point guards throughout the game to take their time in bringing the ball up the court, and this adjustment in strategy may have paid off in the turnover department, as the team only committed 10 turnovers, down significantly from the team's season average. Specifically, each of the two young point guards, Trevor Releford (who had 10 points and 3 assists while shooting 2 of 3 from the arc) and Ben Eblen each only had one turnover, a big improvement from their turnover struggles in recent games. We'll see on Saturday if this adjustment can pay similar dividends against a much tougher opponent in a much tougher environment.
Both(2 points, 6 rebounds) and Tony Mitchell (4 points, 6 rebounds) had quiet games. Mitchell, the team's leader in scoring and rebounding thus far on the season, was left out of the starting lineup but still played a healthy chunk of minutes. On several occasions last season Grant elected to keep our top player, , out of the starting lineup while holding his minutes steady--probably an attempt to shake up the playing rotation.
For the second straight game, both of the post players on the bench, Carl Engstrom and Jason Carter, did not see action until late in the game. For now they seem to be on the outside looking in as far as the playing rotation goes. Also for the second straight game, guard Kendall Durant did not dress, joining guardon the list of injuries. Bama could badly use the depth that both players provide, especially as Eblen continues to struggle in his role as backup point guard.
Charles Hankerson showed some flashes once again in scoring 7 points in the game's opening minutes, but then proceeded to largely disappear for the remainder of the game. Senario Hillman (8 points, 2 blocks) had a fairly quiet game and only played 17 minutes, well below his season averaged. Charvez Davis shook off a cold shooting night in Providence last weekend by hitting 2 3's in this game.
Southeastern Louisiana is one of the weakest opponents we will face this season, so winning this game doesn't really do much for the trajectory of our season. However, avoiding the alternative (a loss) is always nice, and overall the team seemed to improve upon some things that have troubled us in some of our close losses this year.
That improvement will need to continue into this weekend if Bama hopes to avoid falling back below .500. The Tide will travel to Oklahoma City to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys in a nationally televised game on Saturday, the team's last non-conference road game.