There were a lot of positives in the 19 point win over the Mocs. We still made some careless errors and were weak in certain fundamental areas, but overall we played with good intensity and were able to put the game away and cruise to an easy victory.
The substitution patterns continue to make no sense. Andrew Steele was out with an injury, but I fail to see why Anthony Brock and Demetrius Jemison could not have got some meaningful playing time in this type of game. Torrance finally saw some decent minutes, mostly at the two guard, and he played well.
As usual, JaMychael Green ended up in foul trouble, but at least it took him a little longer to get there. We are a much better team offensively with him on the court, and hopefully he will continue to improve his defense so he can stay on the floor. After dropping a double-double in the last game, Coleman was pretty much a non-factor, but Justin Knox more than picked up his slack. Knox had a great all around game, playing good defense, rebounding, and scoring in the post.
Hillman and Gee also had great games. Hillman's shot selection was questionable at times, but more often than not things worked out for the best. Hillman's defense was especially good. He forced several turnovers which led to fast break points, and that was the key to putting the game out of reach.
Alonzo Gee played as good of a game as I have seen. He was solid defensively, but always seemed to make the right decisions on offense, utilizing all of his skills. He knew when to shoot, and he shot it well, but he was also able to attack the basket and find his open teammates when the situation called for it.
Ron Steele looked for his shot early in the game, and was shooting well, but he seemed to look to pass first and set up his teammates in the second half.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of this game was Brandon Hollinger's renewed confidence. One of the big question marks coming into the season was who would be able to shoot the trey from the wing, after losing Riley from last year. After some early season practices and scrimmages, I thought Hillman would be our answer there, but it is becoming apparent to me that while both Hillman and Gee are capable of making the occasional 3, both are more of a slasher and will not be a consistent threat from downtown. We really need Hollinger to become that 2 guard who can consistently shoot from out there. With a number of capable point guards on the roster, Hollinger should be able to focus on this role. He was something like 1 of 21 coming into the game, but he made 2 or 3 from behind the arc. If we can keep JaMychael Green on the floor and out of foul trouble, this will create some inside-out open looks that we will need someone like Hollinger to be able to make.
It wasn't all nice and pretty. As usual, there were some little things that bothered me. I've already mentioned the substitution patterns. UTC used their last timeout with about 8 minutes left. I would have pressed and ran them to death at that point. Also, #34 for UTC, who was a big man but had a nice shot, played much of the second half with 4 fouls. We never really went after him on offense to try to get him fouled out. We played good defense for the most part, but we gave up a couple of easy dunks because we either didn't get back on defense after a made basket or we failed to properly rotate in the zone. We also failed to get a hand up in the face of their shooters a couple of times. We did do a much better job of taking care of the basketball, I think we only had one or two unforced turnovers. Free throw shooting continues to be a big problem.
It is rare that I have any inside information, and it is even more rare that I would post such here on the blog. I'm only posting this because I don't see what it could hurt, and it's not a very well kept secret anyway. I have confirmed, from what I consider to be a fairly reliable source, that the reason Ron Steele did not start the last game was because he challenged Coach Gottfried in practice. Apparently it was an in-your-face, a lot of yelling, other players stepping in between type of confrontation. My first reaction was that this is a sign that Gottfried may have lost the team, and while that still may be the case, this may also be the type of incident that brings the team together. The players actually feel like they can improve over the next few games and win the west, and as bad as the SEC is this year, that's not out of the question. If we had better coaching, I think we would be prohibitive favorites to win the West and would challenge for the overall SEC.
There was another gathering of about 1,500 for this game. There has been some controversy about the attendance, or lack thereof, this season. On the one hand I have heard from a number people that they will not show up until we get a new coach. Their empty seat is a sort of boycott. On the other hand, some say we should continue to show up to support our players, if not our coach. I've been to every game so far this season, so you all know which camp I fall into. That being said, there has been some bad basketball played at times in Coleman, and I don't blame anyone who has stayed away.
This is a controversy that I have a lot of familiarity with. In addition to being an Alabama basketball/football fan, I'm also a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. As those of you who watch MLB know (because apparently there is an FCC rule mandating that it be mentioned at least 3 times per inning of every national broadcast) my Cubs have not won the World Series in 100 years. Things have been a little better recently with some regular season success, but for years one of the hot topics on Chicago sports radio and message boards is whether the fans should continue to show up for the games. Despite often having one of the worst records in baseball, we would consistently lead in attendance.
A vocal group of fans claimed that those of us who went to the games obviously didn't care about winning. By continuing to show up, we gave management no incentive to improve the team. On the other hand, those who flock to Wrigley claimed the team would be even worse, as providing management with the resources ($$ through ticket purchases) at least gave us a CHANCE to be competitive, if we could only get them to spend it more wisely. I always made it to a couple of games per year no matter how bad we were, simply because I enjoy watching Cubs baseball, in whatever form, and I was not going to deprive myself of the fun of going to Wrigley to watch baseball.
Likewise, I enjoy watching college basketball, Alabama basketball in particular, and I will continue to make as many games as I can. When we turn it around, get a new coach, and start winning again, I believe it will be much more enjoyable for those of us who stuck with it during these lean times. Obviously, Coleman doesn't provide the beauty or party atmosphere that Wrigley does, so the attendance will drop off more during the down seasons.
Still, for those of you at home with a stack of tickets that you don't intend to use, please consider the following: Assuming that we don't make the tournament and Gottfried gets the axe, we will need to hire a new coach. If you've already bought tickets, it's not like you are withholding something from the administration. They've already got your money, and that's all they care about. But, when we interview prospective coaches and they are trying to decide whether or not to come here, don't you think it would be better if they see a respectable crowd at the games when they watch us on film or TV? Don't you think it will make it a little bit more easier for that coach to recruit, if he can tell prospects, "Those fans will get behind you, they drew 8,000 per game even in their down season?" If we want to be seen as a legitimate basketball program, we have to start acting like it. That includes the administration getting rid of a coach that's not getting the job done, but it also includes more than a couple of hundred showing up to watch our game, no matter the records or opponent.
Up next, Yale, Sunday night at 6pm. They aren't very good, but they run that motion offense that we have all kinds of trouble defending. I hope to see you there. Merry Christmas.