Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned off the seat belt sign. You are now free to move around the cabin.
We had a 21 point lead at the half, led by 22 at one point and still had a 15 point advantage with only 9 minutes to play, only to flush it all down the toilet with terrible shooting and lazy defense.
In a move that should have been made at least three games ago, Tevin Mack finally started over Galin. T-Mack had one of his better games. He scored 12 points and played adequate defense for the most part. The smaller lineup was able to get off to a fast start and build the aforementioned lead.
Once again, with a size advantage at nearly every position on the floor, our offensive game plan was to shoot 3s and try to beat them at their own game. Somewhat surprisingly, it actually worked, at least for a half. We made 8 from downtown in the first half.
Unfortunately, that was unsustainable, and poor shooting combined with taking our foot off the gas on defense in the second half led to one of the most epic meltdowns you will see in a college basketball game.
It was good to see Riley Norris return from his health issues. He scored 4 points and switched with Alex for offense/defense substitutions in the final minutes. Donta had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, so that was an improvement over his previous efforts, but his defense of the rim down the stretch left a lot to be desired. Dazon played well with 17 points and 8 rebounds, but uncharacteristically choked at the line down the stretch. Kira continues to be our best player and leading scorer, but he struggled when they started playing more physical in the second half. Herbert is in a terrible slump offensively. He was 0 for 6 from the field and 1 for 6 at the line. As I mentioned above, we did an offense/defense substitution for Alex/Riley at the end of the game, why not do the same with Herb and maybe JP? Herb was every bit the liability on offense that Alex was on defense. He missed two free throws that would have maintained a two possession lead in the final 2 minutes.
We had a ten minute scoring drought that allowed the Panthers to chip away at the lead, primarily with Simonds attacking the basket on the dribble drive. The body language from our guys and the defensive effort down the stretch was most disappointing. The lack of leadership on this team was on full display. We need an alpha dog that will get in somebody's grill and challenge others to pick up the intensity when things start going south. We had that last year in young Bull. It's obvious the coaches aren't going to do it, so we need someone to fill that role. Everyone thought the game was over when we were up 20+, and when they got back to within shouting distance, we acted like we were more annoyed to still be in a game rather than motivated to meet a challenge.
We have a lot of talent on this team. I wrote earlier this year we have one of the longer and more experienced teams we've had in some time. We need leadership, but I'm not sure anybody has the personality to step up. Ideally it would be your best player, but it's not fair to expect that from a 17 year old who should be playing high school basketball.
Give some credit to Georgia State. They never gave up, fought their way back into the game, and took advantage of their opportunities. We double teamed their star and they found the open man who made the game winner at the buzzer.
I understand the frustration, but please keep in mind we are only 8 games into the season. As I said above, this team is not as bad as it's looked at times. We will probably pull some upsets and probably lose some more like this when we are favored. We've said repeatedly on here that the 2019 recruiting class will be key to the near term future success of this program. Like it or not, Coach Johnson will not be involuntarily terminated at the end of this season, regardless of the results. The best thing we can do for this program as fans is continue to support this coaching staff and team in a positive way. Not only are the coveted prospects of the 2019 class watching, but should the rumors of CAJ's return to the NBA prove true, so will be potential head coaching replacements. Let's all do our part to make Alabama basketball an attractive place to play and coach. It's easy to be a fan when we're winning NCAA tournament games, but now is the time the guys need us to step up.
The crowd may have been the worst of the season. I don't think there was more than 4,000 there, and it wasn't at all noisy until the very end. Georgia State only brought 20 fans or so, and other than the one I knew sitting near me, I really didn't even notice them until the buzzer when they were rightfully excited and cheering. My Tuscaloosa connections tell me that the marketing of the program seems to have dropped off from recent years. There's been no stories of CAJ going to speak at fraternity or sorority houses, fewer if any radio and billboard ads, etc. This, combined with the assistant coaches seemingly taking on a more prominent role in the actual coaching on the bench during games, makes me wonder if perhaps he is eyeing one of the two already open NBA positions.
Up next, the Arizona Wildcats will be visiting from the wild west for a high noon tip-off Sunday. This isn't the same Arizona team featuring two lottery picks that we dealt with in Tucson last year, but even a relatively down Arizona squad will be a formidable foe. The show down will be broadcast nationally on ESPN, but please, if it's humanly possible for you to get to Coleman, please do so.