A win is a win, but this one wasn't pretty. We've played a number of subpar non-conference teams at this point, and I think everybody is looking ahead a bit to SEC play. Combine that with the fact that Tony Mitchell and Greg Cage were out with the flu reducing our number of scholarship players available to 8, and all the recipes for disaster were present against a bad but scrappy TSU team.
As I mentioned, Tony Mitchell was out with the flu, but I'm not convinced he's the only one on this team who was feeling a little under the weather last night. Torrance did not look like his usual self, and overall the energy level just was not there. We gave up way too many wide open 3's, and the Tigers were knocking them down. When we switched to a 2-3 zone later in the game, we did a better job of closing out and actually defended the perimeter a little better.
In the first half our offense looked horrible. We had several turnovers trying to get the ball into the post. TSU did not have the size down low, but they were more physical than Green, Knox, and Hines in the early going. The refs were letting them play, and TSU was taking advantage by holding and pushing to keep the ball out of there. We were slow to adjust, and that cost us in the first half. Green's frustration showed when he got a technical foul, apparently for saying something to one of the TSU players. In the second half, they started calling it a little bit tighter and we also made the necessary adjustments to allow Green to have another huge day, as he finished with 19 points. He also had an amazing one handed alley-oop that should have been on Sportscenter's top plays.
Senario Hillman was the key to the game. He played consistent and under control, with 15 points and 6 assists to only 1 turnover. As usual, he was a force on defense and got some steals that led to quick, easy baskets.
TSU was able to make enough shots to keep the game close, and it was a 2 point game with only 7 minutes left. Thankfully, Torrance and Brock stepped up with a pair of threes to stretch the lead back out to a comfortable margin. Free throw shooting continues to be an issue, as we went 20 of 29. Honestly, I am surprised we made that many, at one point we missed 4 in a row. Green and Torrance are typically 2 of our better FT shooters, but Green was only 3 for 7 and Torrance was 7 for 10.
Under normal circumstances this is a team that we should have blown out. However, dealing with sickness and injuries, the uptempo style of both teams is certainly not conducive to playing with 8 players, particularly when only 7 of which are legitimate scoring options. Despite another poor start, we still got away with a double-digit win.
The crowd was surprisingly strong, I would say about 7,000 or so. A lot of people came out for the double-header, as the women beat USM before the start of the men's game. Up next, our last non-conference game of the year and first true road game, Monday, Jan. 4, at Toledo. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. Central time. Originally, I had considered making this trip, but since I'm going to Pasadena later in the week to watch football, I'm going to have to sit this one out. Happy New Year to all, and may this next decade be a prosperous one for Bama Hoops!