Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bama Bests Bulls

Here is your late report on the victory of the South Florida Bulls.

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. 

Roll Tide! 


DJC said...

Thanks for posting, I had begun to write a recap on my way home last night but didn't finish it up.

From what I saw, we were in control most of the game. Tarrant got the start above Coleman, which I don't necessarily agree with for a number of reasons. Tarrant is more experienced and is capable of putting up more points, and obviously has more size, but I believe Coleman is a true point guard who makes everyone else on the floor better. Regardless, it worked out as both played well in their respective roles.

I was really worried about this game due to USF's size and the way the game played out in Tampa last year. Jimmie Taylor had a huge game by controlling the glass with 11 rebounds. That was the key to this win, in my opinion. Levi, Coop, Coleman, and Tarrant also played very well. Kessens may be starting to come on, as he had a few great plays, but also had some really bad turnovers.

It was much like most of our games this year, pretty good shooting, solid offense, but bad defense, and excellent free throw shooting.

Sorry I can't give more insight into this game. I missed the first 5 minutes, and watched the rest of the game from a bar in Florida where the majority of patrons were sporting multiple tattoos, 2 sizes too small affliction t-shirts, and backwards hats. Plus, I was watching the game on a small, standard definition TV, while the Chicago Bulls v. Mavericks were on the adjacent big screen TV. In case you didn't know, I'm also a Chicago Bulls fan, and their game was tight and going into double overtime (unfortunately Mavs won) so it was a bit distracting while our game seemed to be well in hand for most of the second half.

Up next, we travel to Xavier for a 7pm CST tip off Saturday night. The game will be televised on CBS Sports network. For those of us going to the SEC Championship game, I will try to confirm that it will be shown at a sports bar near the Georgia Dome and will post the info here if I'm able to do so.

Msmilie said...

Despite the salaries the coaches make, basketball is not rocket science. If you have depth, if you have guys who can make shots, if you have a team with good chemistry that wants to be coached, you can have a good team.

Chemistry has never been terrible under Grant, but it's palpable how much this group enjoys playing together. And unlike some past teams, this team has several guys who can step up and make baskets when needed. The scoring average through six games backs that up.

Guys have stepped up. Levi has been a 1st team All-SEC player through six games, and Coop has been much more consistent so far this season (two 20 pt games so far after only one last season).

My biggest concern is defensively. They really haven't been that great at times this season. While South Florida did turn the ball over 21 times, they still shot the ball 50% from the field and 3-pt range. If they don't go 9-19 from the free throw line, it may have been a tighter game down the stretch. Alabama has to continue to improve on defense if the good times are going to continue.

I wasn't crazy about Tarrant starting in the USF game because I had been happy with his ability to create a scoring spark off the bench, and I've been incredibly impressed with Coleman. But it's hard to argue with a 17 pt, 8 ast, 5 stl game. I knew he could score, but I had concerns about his ability to run the offense and spread the ball around. He did that very well. And he really played with a lot of emotion: Making plays, talking, trying to get the crowd involved.

I agree with DJC that Jimmie's game on Tuesday was a big key to the win. USF was the bigger team, but Jimmie just outworked them. If he can continue to rebound in that manner, that would be big. And while Shannon's offensive game has gotten off to a slow start, he's a noticeably better rebounder this season. Not to afraid to mix it up with bigger guys. Kessens also had his best game with 9 pts and 8 boards. This team isn't very big in the post, but it's a night and day difference in terms of skill and athleticism compared to the last couple of years.

A long way to go, but I like what I've seen so far.

wgslaw said...

As a long term WSU supporter, of course I wanted to win. Afterwards, though I could help but feel for the Alabama team. For a 20 minute stretch starting toward the end of the first half, Alabama played beautiful basketball. I really did not think they had it in them. They played great perimeter defense never letting Baker get a clean look and their inside defense made penetrating by Fred or anyone very difficult. WSU's perimeter defense of Cotton, Baker and Van are a buzz saw for almost every team and they feed off deflections. On offense, Alabama played under control, were patient, took only good shots and shot lights out. Then to lose it in the last 6 minutes. This by far the best I have seen Alabama play a whole game in the 4 times we have played. You guys are fools if you let this coach get away. He is going to get there