We had some coverage issues regarding game recaps last night -- that is to be expected following the holiday, the Playoffs and students returning to campus. We'll get it corrected. In the meanwhile, please enjoy what I was able to cobble together for you on short notice.
From behind enemy lines:
The Gamecocks (15-1, 2-1) acted like they’d never seen a pick-and-roll. As they did against Auburn and Vanderbilt, they collapsed on drivers and seemed confused when a pass was kicked out for a wide-open 3-point shot.
Alabama’s Riley Norris averaged 6.2 points a game in 14 games. He had 15 in the first nine minutes Thursday, all on 3-pointers, and ended with 27. USC tried to shoot its way back into it but Alabama’s defense was ready. The Tide spread themselves up top to deny any drivers and effectively cut off any passing lanes to the interior; as the Gamecocks tried to shoot over it, nine of their 10 first-half 3-point attempts went anywhere but through the net.
"We played awful," Michael Carrera said. "Offensively and defensively, we played awful. I really don’t know what to say."
Saturday night, Avery Johnson was furious about the team failing to run the offense, particularly the pick and roll. I think the memo was received. With defenders occupied, and good kick-out passing, a Tide team that relies on the deep ball made the most of its opportunities, particularly Riley Norris.
Let's watch him ball, shall we?
Alabama coach Avery Johnson said he didn't recognize his team in 77-61 loss to Kentucky on Saturday. They looked lackadaisical, he said.
It wasn't the look he wanted at this point in the season. "We probably had one of our hardest practices on yesterday," Johnson said. "Our scout team, which consists of Avery Johnson Jr., Lawson Schaffer, Nick King, Christian Clark and Donta Hall, they really put it on our guys yesterday. It was an intense battle for the entire two hours plus of practice. Every drill, every situation and it carried over."
That was what South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. Looking at game film, he told his team Alabama was the most intense team they'll see. They play harder than anyone else, Martin said. "They attacked us," Martin said. "They did to us what we usually do to people, which is not let people off."
The hard practice paid off indeed. Hot outside shooting by the Tide, coupled with a lackadaisical effort by South Carolina, made this one a rout. It was very good to see Retin Obasohan finally get some help. He's been great in this perimeter-oriented offense, but the team will only go as far as the added play of Riley Norris, Michael Kessens, and Arthur Edwards will take it.
Soon, I venture, locker room celebrations won't be quite this intense for Coach Johnson and the Tide. But, for a patchwork team of transfers, underclassmen, and overachievers, the fancy footwork was earned.
Take it away, Coach.
One final note: A special thank you to the students. First night back on campus, on a cold evening in Tuscaloosa, and you showed out. That's what this program needs. #BuckleUp