Sunday, January 08, 2017

Shut the Front 'Dore, Alabama 59 Vandy 56

Alabama survived this game of runs to win its 4th in a row and improve to 2-0 in conference play.

Vandy may have switched coaches, but they still seemingly have a roster full of guys who never miss open 3s.  Nearly half of their shots were from 3 point range, and I think they did us a favor by letting Kornet play on the perimeter so much.  He is a good shooter, but taking the 7 footer out of the rebounding equation is always a good trade off.  Our bigs had a hard time to guarding him on the perimeter, but Coach Johnson did a nice job of going with the smaller lineup when necessary.

Vandy jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, but we answered with a 17-2 run to take a 9 point lead midway through the first half.  We got sloppy with turnovers and Vandy got hot again to retake the lead, and the game went back and forth before going to halftime tied at 30.

I'm starting to become a bit concerned about our trend of starting the second half slowly.  Long scoring droughts continue to be an issue.  We didn't score in the first 5 minutes of the second half, and it took us 6 and a half minutes to get a FG.  Meanwhile the Dores built a 14 point lead.

At the time it felt like another desperation attempt of putting a crazy lineup out there with Corban, Davis, Key, Hale, and Bola on the floor, but that group gave us a spark.  I've been hard on Davis here at times, but his 4 point play sparked the rally, and he played very well, on both ends of the floor.  His shot selection was much better, and he scored 12 points including 3 of 6 from 3 point range.

We are starting to develop an identity of a solid rebounding team, which is welcome change from recent seasons.  We out-rebounded Vandy 50-35, and had a ton of second chance opportunities.  Unfortunately, we didn't convert as many of those as we should have, but if we can continue limiting our opponents to one shot per possession while we get 2 or 3 shots at it on our end, I'll like our chances more often than not.

After a nice second half run we had a 58-51 lead with 2:45 left, but took some bad shots and had a couple of lapses on defense that gave Vandy a chance to tie it in their last possession.  We got the stop and won the game, but I'm afraid we are playing with fire blowing these late leads.

Jimmie Taylor played well off the bench despite struggling a bit defensively. He scored 10 points and had 8 rebounds, and a couple of dunks that really got the crowd going and seemed to spark the team.  He did have 3 turnovers, and I've noticed in recent games he seems to struggle with the delayed double-team.  When he gets doubled immediately he's very good at recognizing it and finding the open man, but he's had a few turnovers lately with the delayed double.  I think this is something that Howland exploited and Drew picked up on film.  Dazon had another double-double with 10 and 10.  There were a couple of possessions late in the game where he beat his man in the lane but passed back out when I thought he should have been more aggressive at the rim, but overall he's playing very good basketball right now.  Bola had a fantastic game, 7 points and 8 rebounds in only 14 minutes of playing time.  Hale gave us 15 good minutes, and even though he only scored 3 free throws, I thought he played well.  His defense was good and he was aggressive.  He contributed with 3 assists and no turnovers.  Corban also played better than his stats indicated, he had a huge steal, played good defense, and took care of the basketball.  He did take one ill advised shot at a crucial point late in the game though.

I sat near the Vandy bench for about 5 minutes in the first half as I participated in one of the promotions during a media timeout (I lost because I still can't make a layup, but that's not really relevant here), and while I didn't agree with a lot of Bryce Drew's strategic decisions in this game, I was very impressed by the organization of his staff.  There seemed to be a lot more constant communication and enthusiasm from their coaches and players on the bench than I usually see from ours, but in fairness I was sitting over there when they made their run.  I noticed when it neared the 8 minute mark, they had several grad assistants already positioned with the chairs ready to set everything up the second the whistle blew for the media timeout.  By the time I walked from the baseline to free throw line, I looked over and Drew already had the entire team huddled up and was in the middle of drawing up his play.

Considering the circumstances, the crowd and atmosphere was fantastic.  A significant portion of our fanbase is already in Tampa for the football game.  There were travel issues across the state due to a couple of inches of sleet and snow that fell the day before, and temperatures were in the low 20s (it still amazes me that a couple of inches of snow can shut down this entire city/state, but I digress).  Plus, the students don't start classes again until Wednesday.  Despite all of this, I would say there were about 5,500 at the game, and most took advantage of the opportunity to move down close to the floor.  Everyone remained positive even when we faced the big deficit, and it was reasonably loud when we made our run or needed a big stop defensively.

Up next, the Florida Gators came to Coleman Coliseum for an 8pm tipoff Tuesday night.  Florida is currently a top 5 RPI team, so this is obviously a huge opportunity to get a very high quality win.  We need a packed house!  If you can't make it, the game will be televised on ESPNU.

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