South Alabama wasn’t supposed to offer much of a challenge to an Alabama squad that came in averaging 98.5 points a game.
Nobody must have told them.
In the first half we saw the floor for this Alabama team. After jumping out to a 10-2 lead early, they struggled mightily in the half court against man defense from an inspired Jaguars squad. That isn’t terribly concerning this early in the season, but will likely lead to some choppy waters considering the strength of the upcoming slate. In any case, it was ugly to the tune of a whopping 14 first half turnovers that had the Tide behind 34-31 to a team that they had no business trailing.
Things didn’t go all that much better in the second half, but to their credit, the Tide managed to pull out a win on a night when they didn’t have their best game. Keon Ellis and Darius Miles really stepped up on the defensive end in the second half. Perhaps most encouragingly, the Tide knocked down some big foul shots down the stretch including two from big man Charles Bediako, who has struggled in that area.
JD Davison provided the dagger with a thunderous dunk inside of a minute to play, his only bucket of the night, and Alabama moved to 3-0.
It was pretty clear that the Tide missed Juwan Gary’s energy tonight. Bediako is very athletic but he doesn’t quite have Gary’s edge just yet. South Alabama was able to turn the game into something of a street fight, and they made it difficult on the Tide with threes not dropping at the same pace as the first two outings. Alabama ended up winning the rebounding battle but just barely.
A win is a win, but Nate Oats will undoubtedly find much to work on from this one. The half court offense simply must have more continuity and not rely quite so much on the three pointer against man defense. Oats may well end up shortening the playing rotation again as well. Whatever the solution, rebounding and ball security have to be better than they were tonight.
Next up for the Tide will be Oakland on Friday night, which will be the last of anything resembling a tune up before the meat of this brutal early schedule starts in earnest. Most importantly, they seemingly emerged healthy. Tonight wasn’t terribly pretty, but they are undefeated and now have identified their warts. Hopefully they can get to work and look more like the team we saw in the first two games going forward.