We did our part in the SEC/Big 12 challenge, giving the conference an early 1-0 lead in the event. The starting lineup was 1. Releford, 2. Retin, 3. Cooper, 4. Jacobs, 5. Taylor. I said after the last game that Jimmie Taylor needed to play more and Carl less. Jimmie started and played 21 minutes, and did fairly well, with 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 4 blocked shots, 4 points, and a steal. Carl played only 2 minutes, and picked up 2 fouls between turning the ball over. I like this starting lineup, but I would prefer Levi to start over Retin. I don't like starting both Relly and Retin, because if they both get in foul trouble, as they did against Oklahoma, we have nobody to come off the bench and handle the basketball. Algie Key went from starting and scoring 20+ in the first game to playing only 11 minutes and taking only one shot. I thought he earned more playing in time in this game, but it's hard to argue for taking minutes away from Retin who played an outstanding game, scoring 15 points in 37 minutes, including a perfect 5 for 5 from the free throw line.
This game was all about Trevor Releford. He was on fire from downtown, making three early 3 pointers and scoring 11 of our first 15 points to give the Tide an early 7 point lead. We made some substitutions at the first media timeout, and the new group with Algie and Carl in the game did not seem to play with the same chemistry. Some sloppy turnovers and poor interior defense allowed the lead to slip away. When Retin and Releford came back into the game, the offense got rolling again and we turned up the defensive pressure, creating some turnovers and built a 12 point lead going into halftime.
Tubby's team played hard and would not completely fold, but they never seriously challenged again either. The lead fluctuated between 16 or 18 points back to 12 or 14 for most of the second half. Every time Tech would start to get a little bit of momentum, we had the answer. Releford ended up with 29 points including 5 of 7 from downtown. He picked up a touch foul early in the game, and I was afraid it would be the Oklahoma game all over again, but he was able to play smart defensively and not take himself out of the game. We stayed out of foul trouble for the most part and still played well defensively, so hopefully our guys are adjusting to the new rules. I think Coach Grant is doing a good job of being more selective about when to utilize the full court defense, and our half court zone trap has been very effective.
We were more uptempo offensively, and it was the Tech team that struggled with the shot clock most of the game. That's mostly a combination of our defense and Tubby's deliberate offensive system. From our perspective, so far it seems we aren't passing up good shots early in the shot clock which I felt was a big problem last year. We still need to get more out of Cooper, he played 36 minutes and scored only 7 points, and was 0 for 4 from 3 point range. He is brick mason right now, and his shot is way too flat. We are going to need him to find a way to score from the 3 position, either attacking the rim or putting some arc on his outside shots, if we are going to compete against good teams. I was hopeful that Shannon Hale could help us score from the SF spot, but he looked completely lost out there the 6 minutes he was in the game.
The crowd was about what you would expect for a November game at 8 pm coming off of a loss while college football was on television. I was estimate around 6,000 or so in the house, with more people sitting above the portals than below thanks to the stupid Tide Totals points system. On another note, Saul Smith, Tubby's son, is working for his dad as the video coordinator, and he has aged a lot from his playing days. It doesn't seem like that long ago I was taunting him with the "Daddy's boy" chant as we pulled off the upset over Kentucky at Coleman.
Up next, the Stillman Tigers make the short drive over from the west side of Tuscaloosa to take on the Tide in the first game of the preseason NIT tournament. Tip-off is set for 7 pm Monday night, or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the McNeese State/Georgia State game. Stillman played us competitively in an exhibition game a year ago, and I'm sure they will be excited about playing for a trip to New York. In a game that counts though, I hope we can take care of business early and rest our key guys in the 2nd half so we will be ready to go Tuesday night.