The Avery Johnson era began in Tuscaloosa with a solid, although sloppy, 77-64 victory over the Kennesaw State Owls of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The game was played before a excited crowd of 14,970, the largest opening day crowd since a capacity crowd of 15,043 in 1989 when the Tide played the North Carolina Tar Heels.
'Bama opened with a starting five of Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale, Arthur Edwards, Dazon Ingram and Retin Obasohan. The Tide started out hot and built a 12-1 lead in the first six minutes of the game, and led 21-5 before the Owls Yonel Brown heated up and helped cut the lead to 43-32 at the half. 'Bama hurt their chances of having a bigger lead by only hitting 4-15 free throws in the first stanza.
After the Tide built a 52-35 lead, KSU went on a run of their own to cut the lead to 56-49, as the Tide went on a drought reminiscent of Grantsketball. However Ingram, then Obasohan, took over to stretch the lead, cruising to the easy 13 point victory. Obasohan was the leading scorer with 18 points, followed by Ingram with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and only one turnover in his first collegiate game. Hale added 13 points, Michael Kessens scored eight points and Taylor and Edwards added six each. Justin Coleman dished out five assists.
Brown, the lithe 5'8" point guard for the Owls, was the best player on the court, playing all 40 minutes, scoring 34 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Kendrick Ray added 17 points, and Aubrey Williams had 12 rebounds for KSU.
The Tide used several lay ups and dunks to finish with a 50.9 shooting percentage, but were only 15-27 (55.6%) from the free throw line and 4-17 (23.5%) from three point range. After the game coach Avery Johnson said, "we aren't going to always only hit 4-17 from three and 55% from the line. Look for a lot more points going forward." Alabama grabbed 38 rebounds and had 13 assists, and six blocks, while committing 12 turnovers.
The Owls shot 19-55 (34.5%),7-19 (37%) from three and 19-26 (73%) from the free throw line. KSU won the battle of the boards with 39 and blocked four shots and dished out 6 assists with 16 turnovers.
Several things to take away from the game:1) Retin Obasohan should have a huge year in this system: Strong, fast, athletic and a improved shooter. 2) Dazon Ingram is the real deal, a 6'5" point guard with a big body and good ball skills. 3) Shannon Hale has so much ability, but can be maddening in his effort level at times. 4) Jimmie Taylor is strong on the boards, and on defense, but still needs work on the offensive end. 5) Michael Kessens looks healthy and flashed great ability, but still committed too many silly fouls and couldn't stay on the court. 6) Donta Hall can be a beast. Although he played limited minutes, he was active on the boards and blocking shots, and threw down a monster dunk on a follow up 7) Justin Coleman will help with speed but still needs more strength.8) Arthur Edwards, the graduate transfer, is a big body that doesn't mind shooting and is a nice piece. 9) Brandon Austin and Riley Norris saw very limited minutes but both have a lot to offer.
Coach Johnson appears to have 10 guys that he can use in various roles, and without a lot of drop off in performance. The team will be able to mix-and-match depending on the opponent, with the ability to go big, small or in between. Overall, although not a great start, it was nice to get the teams feet wet, while pulling out a victory over a severely overmatched team.
The Tide tip off next on Tuesday, November 17th, at noon CST at Dayton University. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN.
Roll Tide Roll and Buckle Up
Follow me @rogerpatmyers on Twitter for live, in-game updates if you are unable to watch/listen.
[Ed. Note: You really should follow Roger too. He live tweets every basketball and baseball game, and his account is the one we rely upon. Let's just skip the middleman, eh? -E]