Alabama (5-1) avenged last season's two-point loss to the South Florida Bulls (5-2) by a convincing score of 82-71 within the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum. Here is a Box Score.
I was only able to watch the second half and have not yet viewed my recording of the game, but Bama played sound defense most of the game and enjoyed balanced scoring. Four of our players hit double figures, lead by Rodney Cooper with 20 and Ricky Tarrant with 17. Bama hit 8 of its 25 three point shots and continues to shoot well from the foul line, going 20 out of 25. Levi Randolph came one shot short of tying the school record of consecutive free throws made after having been jinxed on the air by former Alabama star Wendell Hudson. (More on Hudson later.)
It appears the infusion of new blood, the continuing emergence of Levi Randolph (my favorite player of the past three years), Cooper's finding his shot again, and the influence of new coach Reggie Witherspoon all have breathed new life into what had become a frustrating program. Every Bama Basketball fan has been rooting for Head Coach Anthony Grant and hoping he could regain the energy and success his teams showed during his second, third and fourth seasons. As much as I personally liked Tony Pujol, Witherspoon appears to be a substantial upgrade. Knowing nothing about the inner workings of the team, I also suspect the personalities of this season's squad are more conducive to success than those we have witnessed the previous two seasons.
This team is fun to watch. The players actually move without the ball on offense and pass the ball around the court. Perhaps previous squads had become too dependent on their point guard leader. I do not know. DJC and MSmilie are much better students of the game than I. Hopefully they can offer some real observations as the season progresses. The defense has dipped a bit from what we saw in earlier squads, but at this point I am more than happy with the trade off.
Other than the performance of the team, the greatest treat I enjoyed last night was hearing Wendell Hudson (pictured above from his college days) provide color commentary in the absence of Bryan Passink who was away performing other duties. Most of our readers likely will know Wendell only as the former head coach of our Women's Basketball Team, but he is an important historical icon in Alabama history. Wendell was the first African-American scholarship athlete to play any sport at The University of Alabama and a very good basketball player.
Wendell was a senior power forward my freshman year and led our team to its first NIT appearance (this was when the NCAA Tournament field was only 22 teams and an NIT invitation carried significant prestige) in many years. Playing for Head Coach C.M. Newton, Wendell was instrumental in bringing Bama Basketball back to relevance. I owe Wendell a huge personal debt because that team his senior year is the one thing that influenced me to become a fan of Bama Basketball. I'd never played organized basketball or even been a fan of the game before then. I always enjoy Wendell's commentary during the games and have found him personally charming and engaging the few times I've had the privileged to meet him. If you ever see him at any of our games, please introduce yourself and thank him for everything he has done for us.
Thank you, Wendell Hudson, for everything you have done for our program, our school, and for me.