Alabama wraps up the non-conference portion of the schedule with a 9-3 record after a convincing win over Norfolk State. It was a close game in the first half, thanks to some hot shooting by the Spartans. We gave them way too many open mid-range jump shots, as we seemed to struggle with our communication on defense. The halftime score was 33-28.
This was another game where we had a big advantage in the post, and we tried to exploit it early, but Jimmie was having a difficult time finishing around the basket. He continues to put the ball on the floor when he has good position in the post on the low block. It's maddening at times. Thankfully, our back court had a much better game and we were able to light them up from 3 point range.
The defense totally shut down NSU in the second half. We did a much better job of closing out on their shooters. Bama opened the second half on a 6-0 run to stretch the lead to 11, and never looked back.
We ran a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game, with a bit of press mixed in. I was a little surprised we ran so much zone against a team that we matched up very well against. I suspect Coach Johnson may have been wanting to get the guys a little in-game practice at playing the zone, since we'll likely have to run quite a bit of it next weekend against Kentucky.
After a couple of rough games, Obasohan bounced back and played outstanding on both ends of the court. He ended with 23 points and 4 steals. He used the glass a lot more than he has been, and that seemed to help him finish in the paint. Art Edwards also had a nice game with 15 points, shooting 5 for 9 from the 3 point range. As a team, we were 11 of 24 from downtown and even 13 of 17 from the free throw line. Riley Norris also had a great overall game with 10 points and 8 rebounds, but I thought he also did a lot of things defensively that don't show in the stats. He was active in the corner of the zone, taking away passing lanes, deflecting balls, and otherwise disrupting the Spartans flow on offense. Justin Coleman did not contribute much to the scoring, but I thought he played a solid game in running the point. He made good decisions and finished with 6 points and 3 turnovers.
If there was one negative from this game it was the 13 turnovers. That's not an incredibly high number, but too many of them were unforced mental errors. This is an area that must improve if we are going to make some noise in conference play.
It was good to see Shannon Hale back on the court, although he was either still rusty or feeling the effects of his medical issue. He played 14 minutes and picked up 3 fouls. It was also nice to get Christian Clark and Lawson Schaffer some playing time in the final 2 minutes.
The crowd was decent, but not great, I would estimate around 5,500 or so, but they were very much into the game from start to finish. The energy in the building, both from the team and crowd, was much better than it was against Jacksonville State.
So, 9-3 going into the conference play, I think we all should be very satisfied with where we are.
Up next, we provide the competition for Ole Miss as they open their brand new arena Thursday night at 8 pm. It will be a tremendous challenge against a very solid 10-3 rebel team in a hostile environment. The game will be televised on ESPNU.