Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Clobbered by Clemson

We were competitive in the first half. We moved the ball around, had a good assist to turnover ratio, and got good looks at the basket in nearly every trip in the first half. Unfortunately, the shots were not falling. On the defensive end of the court, our interior defense was horrible. Hendrix had one of his worst defensive games of the year, if not his career. It was almost as if we were playing to avoid foul trouble rather than contest Clemson's shots. The perimeter defense was actually decent, but Oglesby was able to make some difficult 3's. Riley and Pickett were consistently beat off the dribble, and Hendrix would not step up to contest a 6 foot jumpshot. I can think of a few occasions where Hollinger, Rico, Gee, and Riley made a bad play on the offensive end, but hustled back to block a shot or create a turnover on defense. Still, we went into the half only trailing by 5. At halftime, I thought we were playing hard and figured if some shots would start falling and we could step it up some on defense, we would be okay.

The second half was embarrassing, disgusting, pathetic, and disgraceful. We rarely got into transition, and the high post offense completely bogged down against Clemson's physical man to man. We resorted to a lot of one on one type ball, with Riley and Rico taking multiple poor shots. Torrance was sloppy with the ball and spent way too much time dribbling in the halfcourt offense. Senario Hillman took a lot of ill advised shots. Our defense in the second half was non existent.

The key to the game was Clemson's press. At times, we put on a clinic in how to break the press. We got the ball to the middle of the floor, made short, quick diagonal passes with the passer breaking to the open spot, and pushed the ball up court to create a numbers advantage. A couple of times we should have attacked the basket after breaking the press, but instead we slowed things down and allowed Clemson to set up their halfcourt defense. Other times, we were completely inept. We would inbound the ball to the corner, and either try to dribble out of the trap or throw a 40 foot lob pass that would inevitably be picked off. At one point, Clemson scored 7 points without us even getting the ball across halfcourt. This is when the game got out of hand.

At one point in the second half we were in a man to man defense with Hollinger giving up about a foot and a half. He did the best he could, but Clemson posted him up and got 2 or 3 easy baskets out of the mismatch before we made an adjustment. I continue to be baffled by our substitution patterns. Riley is allowed to continue to play despite poor shooting and no defense, while Tubbs remains in the doghouse. Senario is a great athlete, but he isn't bringing much to the table on offense right now. Demetrius Jemison continues to start, but he is not producing as needed. Outside of Hendrix, our inside game is struggling right now.

We waited until we were down 20 to press. We forced turnovers out of it the first 2 times we ran it, but Clemson made some adjustments and were able to extend their lead.

This type of game is the reason many people, myself included, have been so critical of Coach Gottfried over the last few years. When we fell down by 12 with about 7 or 8 minutes left, the team quit. It was obvious that we were just going through the motions on both ends of the court. We lost rebounds because we didn't even bother to jump. We stopped diving for loose balls. We were not cutting with any purpose on offense, if we even moved at all. We jacked up contested 3 point shots and did not bother to follow our shot. Worst of all, we were constantly out of position and appeared totally unmotivated on defense.

It's not the fact that we lost that bothers me, so much as how we lost. If we would have continued to compete after falling behind by a dozen and lost by 15-20, I would not have a problem with it. These 30-40 point losses have been way too common under Coach Gottfried, although they are usually reserved for road games. Inability to stop our opponent's momentum when they get on a run has been a recurring problem the last nine years.

Coach Gottfried has done a lot of good things here. He saved the program from the Hobbs era, he's recruited some of the nation's top talent to Tuscaloosa, he runs a class program, and he graduates all his players. However, losing on our home court in the manner that we lost tonight is unacceptable and is an embarrassment to the University. As an alum, seeing my team fail to give effort is just as embarrassing as it would be to have a team of hired guns like $tate or lawless thugs like some other schools in the conference. For the record, Coach Gottfried said himself in the post game that the effort was not there in the second half. That is completely inexcusable, and should NEVER even be an issue, especially at this point in his career. In practically every public appearance he has made this year, he has begged fans to attend the games and promised, "this team will play hard and is a team you can be proud of." Well, tonight he reneged on that promise.

My love for Alabama basketball is unconditional. I will continue to show up and support the players AND coaching staff. However, if we have many more nights like tonight, I may be the only one left by the end of the season.

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