The Alabama Crimson Tide played shorthanded in their season opener on Tuesday, but still defeated the Southern University Jaguars by a comfortable score of 82-62. Dazon Ingram was out with a sprained ankle, Riley Norris is out after having a heart ablation recently. Freshman Javian Davis-Fleming has a sprained knee and is day to day, and fellow freshman Dionte Wood is out for the season after having ankle surgery.
Coach Avery Johnson’s alma mater from Baton Rouge put up a fight all night, but were just over matched, over talented, and out sized. The young 17 year old freshman point guard Kira Lewis received the start with Ingram on the shelf and looked up to the task, pushing the ball up the court and distributing with the guile of a much older, more experienced player. The other starters were Donta Hall, Galin Smith, John Petty, and Herbert Jones. All but Smith are fast, athletic players.
The Tide used 56% shooting and 75% free throw shooting to take a 45-27 lead into the locker room at halftime. Petty had 14 points at the break on 4-6 shooting from deep, and Hall added 12. Lewis dished out five assists with no turnovers . The aggressive Bama defense held the Jaguars to 8-25 (32%) shooting for the half.
The Jaguars were only outscored 37-35 in the second half to make the margin a little more palatable for them. The Tide cooled off to 13-30 (43%) shooting in the second period with 4-10 from deep and 7-12 (58%) from the free throw line.
Hall led four players in double figures with 20 points while Petty added 17 and Smith and Tevin Mack tossed in 10 each. Hall added five rebounds and two blocks . Herbert Jones led the team with nine rebounds and added eight points. Lewis finished with six points, seven assists, one block, one steal, and three turnovers. The team ended the night 27-55 for 49% from the field and 9-24 from deep (37%) and 19-28 (68%) from the charity stripe.
The Tide won the battle of the boards against the smaller Jaguars by a total of 45-31. The biggest negative for Bama was the twenty turnovers, but the team dished 17 assists, and recored six blocks and three steals. The officiating was somewhat uneven for both teams, and there were at least seven illegal screen calls in the game. Southern was called for 28 fouls and the Tide was called for 24, causing the game to drag on, and making it hard for the teams to get in a rhythm. At one point Avery Johnson, Jr. was called for a possible flagrant foul with an elbow to a players face. After a long delay and review, with much booing from the crowd (announced at 9,700) the referees determined exactly what the fans saw, Johnson never touched the Southern player, and he flopped harder than a soccer player in a World Cup match.
Eight players played between 19-30 minutes for the Tide with Petty logging the most time on the court. Petty was 5-8 from deep, and if he can carry his shooting touch on the road this season it will be a huge boost for Bama. Last season Petty was dynamite at home, and invisible on the road. His improvement will be key to road success in the very tough SEC.
This Bama team has a lot of long, athletic, players that can fill many roles. Jones can play at least four spots, Reese can man three positions, as can Mack. Hall needs to stay consistent against all competition, but his ability to jump and run the court is impressive. All in all for an opening game the Tide did what they needed to, and need to continue to improve through the pre-SEC games.
The Tide takes to the hard court again on Sunday when they host Appalachian State in a game that tips off at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Roll Tide, and Buckle Up
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