The short-handed Tide got back to the .500 mark with a gutsy win over a solid Paladins team. Things started sloppy as neither team could control the basketball, much less gain control of the game. Alabama turned the ball over 11 times in the first 8 minutes of the game. At this point we slowed the pace down a bit and "only" had 10 more turnovers for the rest of the game. Perhaps it would be more efficient to take a gradual approach to working up to the pace that Coach Oats wants to run. It does no good to be in the top 5 in the country in possessions per game if we turn it over on 25% of those possessions. I would be perfectly happy with a top 40ish pace and less than 15 turnovers per game.
The multiple injuries are another reason to let off the gas just a bit for the time being. Beetle missed this game with a hand injury sustained in the Rhode Island game and was in a cast on the sideline. Alex only played 11 minutes with a bad hip, and Galin only played twelve with a thumb injury. The starting lineup was Kira, JP, Herb, Alex, and Davis. The defensive effort was much better overall in this game, and despite the early turnovers we never fell too far behind, and led by 3 going into the half. Shack coming off the bench and making some 3s in the first half was huge, and the Tide held a three point lead at halftime.
Furman jumped out to an early 6 point lead in the second half, but Alabama quickly answered to go back on top. Coach Oats picked up a technical foul after being warned with Furman seemingly building momentum in a tie game with approximately 9 minutes left. The team responded and went on a run to build a 10 point lead, and made their free throws and got just enough stops down the stretch to hold on. While the team has responded to both of Oats' technical fouls to go on runs, that is a tactic that can only be used so many times. I understand that he is showing his team he will fight for them, and trying to establish respect in a new league, but I fear the officials are going to just tune him out if he keeps going nuts on every questionable call.
Shack had a great game with 25 points, and JP bounced back with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and only one turnover. Kira had a nice second half after being largely shut down in the first. The Paladins did a nice job defensively on him, forcing an uncharacteristic 7 turnovers. Kira still finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds. Davis was also in double-figures with 10 points and 5 rebounds. Herbert turned the ball over more than we would like with 4, but he scored 8 points, grabbed 6 boards, and had a huge blocked shot of Jordan Lyons in the final minutes of the game to help secure the victory. The team made 20 of 27 from the free throw line, including 6 of 6 from Kira and 8 of 10 from Shack. Jordan Lyons was fun to watch, he reminded me a bit of Nate Robinson, just a bulldog of a guard who plays with swagger, can get to the line (where he doesn't miss) and can shoot from anywhere on the floor. He scored 33 points and almost single-handedly brought them back, thankfully he didn't have much help around him.
Once again, Alabama out-rebounded their opponent 43-34. What was a big question mark going into the season has been a strength thus far, and is an indication of the effort and hustle these guys are playing with as a team. If we could get down to around 12 turnovers per game, and get the 3 point shooting percentage up above 35%, this team would be very difficult to beat.
The crowd was a little disappointing. I would estimate only about 3,500 or so were in attendance, but those who were there were supportive throughout. The two losses and missing out on the two 5-star recruits in the last week seems to have taken the air out of the fanbase a bit. A big win or two on the island next week would be great to restore some momentum.
Up next, we travel to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island, where we open with 5th ranked North Carolina next Wednesday at 1:30 CST, 2:30 EST. I may not fully re-cap each game, but I'll pry myself away from the beach and casino long enough to get something up at some point.