03 December 2009
While it wasn't against a marquee opponent like the Tide's last two wins, the Alabama basketball team wrapped another win in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday night, beating North Florida 73-51.
After a poor stretch in the first half culminated in North Florida leading 31-30 at the half, Bama dominated the entire second half by a score of 43-20.
It wasn't all good news on the day for the Tide, unfortunately. Starting wing player Andrew Steele appeared in Coleman Coliseum wearing a boot and bracing himself on metal crutches. No official word has come down, but it appears to be a stress fracture that could sideline him until conference play. While his numbers might not jump off of the page at you (3.8 pts, 2.8 rbs), Andrew is one of the Tide's best on-ball defenders, and is typically the first guy used to trap when Bama goes to full-court pressure. He's also one of just 11 players that dress for the Tide, and Bama needs all of the bodies that it can get.
Bama got another scare early in the second half when Tony Mitchell (starting in place of Steele) landed awkwardly after being fouled hard on a dunk attempt. At first glance the injury appeared to be serious - and when he was carried out of the gym by two teammates, putting no weight on his left leg, it looked even worse. By game's end he was back on the bench, and appeared to be moving without trouble.
Had he not been injured, his stat line likely would have been gaudy. With North Florida double-teaming both JaMychal Green and Justin Knox every time that they touched the ball, Mitchell was the beneficiary. He left the game after playing just 19 minutes, but had already accumulated 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 steals. He did that while shooting 7 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 3 from three-point range. After entering the game just 1 of 7 from behind the arc, it was nice to see him get going from long range.
The first ten minutes of the game went as planned for Bama, as they dominated on both ends of the floor. Then it looked like the Tide quit, as though the players assumed that North Florida would just lay down and take the defeat. The Osprey's didn't lay down, and the whipped Bama over the final six minutes of the half. Heading to the locker room, Coach Grant remarked on the radio, "We didn't show up. What can you do when you don't show up?"
Bama showed up for the second half. They held UNF to 32% shooting from the floor, and did not allow a 3-pt basket in the half. Conversely, the Tide shot 51.7% from the field, including 40% from beyond the arc. They also held UNF to just three made field goals over the final 11:45 of the game - including just seven points over the final 9:11.UNF did not hit a bucket in the game's final 4:03.
Only Mikhail Torrence (15) and Charvez Davis (10) reach double figures in scoring for the Tide, though the final four minutes were played without a single starter on the floor.
The Tide shot 14 of 18 from the foul line (77.8%) to up their season total to 68.7%.
This isn't a win that will help Bama come tournament selection time, as UNF is likely to finish in the bottom half of the Atlantic Sun Conference. But for a team still learning to be comfortable in a new system, every win is nice. When those wins come fresh off of wins against teams from the Big 12 and Big Ten conferences, that helps a lot.
Bama will host Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday. It's unlikely that there will be much of a crowd, with there being a football game the same day. Having said that, the basketball game is at noon, a full three hours before kickoff of the SEC Championship Game. Folks in Tuscaloosa - especially the STUDENTS - will have plenty of time to get home before kickoff.
The student crowd was embarrassingly small on Wednesday night, and simply needs to get better - I don't care who Bama is playing.
After the La-Monroe game, the Tide will take exam week off, before hosting Purdue on Saturday the 12th at 8 p.m. Make your plans to be in Tuscaloosa for what should be a really great game.
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