Following a very concerning stat line in a lopsided scrimmage loss to Jacksonville State, Alabama responded with a dominating win in the exhibition game against in-state division II foe Montevallo.
Riley Norris was out with a medical issue and will probably miss the next week or two. Javian Davis Flemming missed the game with a sprained knee, and Dan Giddens was also out with a sprained ankle and was in a boot on the sideline.
It's hard to tell much from a game like this, while Montevallo is traditionally a very competitive division 2 program, as MSmilie noted in his preview they are a bit of an unknown quantity this year, and frankly I think they probably aren't as good as they've been in the recent past. Nevertheless, this was exactly the type of game Bama needed to restore some confidence with many fans who may have been overly concerned with the secret scrimmage results.
The starting lineup was 1. Dazon, 2. Petty, 3. Herb, 4. Smith, 5. Hall. We struggled a bit with turnovers and sloppy play the first few minutes of the game, allowing the Falcons to stay competitive into the first media timeout. Petty made a couple of 3s early, but contributed in other ways for the remainder of the contest. The real spark came about midway through the first half when Alex Reese and Kira Lewis entered the game. Reese was a nightmare match-up for the Falcons forwards, and he made a couple of 3s, had some nice assists, and was able to convert some rebounds. He's running the floor well and is looking to be a very well rounded stretch 4. Kira is obviously still young and inexperienced, but is no question the most talented point guard on the roster. He needs to add some muscle, as I could see more elite guards posting him up and pushing him around a bit, but his quickness allows him to play great defense on the perimeter and force some turnovers.
In general, we took much better care of the basketball after the initial 5 to 10 minutes. I really liked the scoring balance, as different guys stepped up at different points in the game. This will be a key this season without a go-to lottery pick to rely on like Collin Sexton. Kira, Herb, Galin, Alex, and JP were all in double digits between 10 to 12 each.
Free throw shooting was atrocious in the first half, but much better in the second. I was very pleased with the defense. We stayed in a man to man for most of the game, with some press in the first half. Montevallo had a couple of long scoring droughts. I know part of that was the talent disparity, but given the size and athleticism of this team, I think they can be very good defensively. We've got to get better at finishing around the basket though. Tevin Mack was 2 of 8 from the field, and at least half of those misses were decent looks within 5 feet. Mack looks the part, but he's going to have to show he can play to his potential to earn a spot in the starting rotation. I don't mean to just pick on Mack though, the whole team struggled to convert what should have been easy baskets, and those can turn some Ws into Ls against better competition.
It will be interesting to see how the starting lineup and rotation plays out. Here's my 2 cents, I did not like the starting lineup last night. I think having both Galin and Hall in makes us a bit too slow and too light on shooters. I also don't like Dazon at the point. I think he's much more valuable as a slasher and defender from the 2 or 3 positions. He turns it over too much at the point, but he does a lot of things well. He's great at drawing contact, but needs to improve his free throw shooting. I expect Kira will be the starting PG by SEC play at the latest, but until then, I would have him backing up AJ. AJ takes care of the basketball and the offense seems to have a better flow right now when he's running it. Personally, based on what I've seen thus far, my starting lineup would be 1. AJ 2. JP 3. Herb 4. Alex, and 5. Hall. Kira, Dazon/Mack, and Galin first off the bench depending on matchups. Riley can back up Alex when he gets healthy, and Giddens and Flemming can work in with Hall and Galin depending on who's healthy, who has the hot hand and who's not in foul trouble.
There wasn't much of a crowd, probably less than 2,000. I feel like this game and the other preseason events have not been marketed as aggressively as they were the previous years. I missed the first couple of minutes and then did not get home until after 10:30 p.m., thanks to the fine folks at ALDOT closing 2 of the 3 lanes on I-59 for a 15 mile or so stretch for construction, despite the actual work only taking place in a small one-tenth of a mile area. I can only imagine what a nightmare this is going to be for an 8pm tip-off against a bigger name SEC opponent. If anybody at ALDOT is reading this, please go shove one of those big orange and white barrels up your arse.
Up next, we'll be playing for keeps Tuesday night against Coach Johnson's alma mater when the Southern Jaguars from Baton Rouge come calling for a 7pm tip-off at Coleman Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network Plus.