05 November 2009
The Alabama basketball team avoided a Syracuse-like disaster in its first exhibition game on Wednesday night, beating the Montevallo Falcons by a score of 81-53. The game marked the debut of new Alabama basketball coach Anthony Grant, as well as a new scoreboard at Coleman Coliseum.
It's tough to really tell a lot from an exhibition game. Coaches use these games to expirement with different combinations, and the competition isn't tough enough to really force the hosting team into the type of situations that they will see later in the season. These games do provide you with valuable experience in seeing how your guys will react to playing someone other than themselves, and they also give your young guys an opportunity to play in front of a live audience.
Before getting to the actual game, it is worth talking about the new look of Coleman Coliseum. The new scoreboard looks fantastic. The pictures that have been on-line do not do it justice. Four large, crystal clear high-def screens are sandwiched between an advertising ribbon board and a ribbon board that displays the time, score, team fouls, and time outs remaining. The boards are used for replays and marketing during time outs, but are essentially giant live televisions during game play. And they look great.
The side of the arena with the zone area has been opened up considerably with the removal of the large scoreboards that ran along each end of the arena. There are still two boards on that side, one a high-def video board, and the other a stats board. Those boards are on the ends of what used to be there, and allow for an unobstructed view from the dining area atop the stands. While both of those boards look good, the simple removal of the eye-soar that was the giant scoreboard makes that side of the arena far more aesthetically pleasing. They did a nice job in building the zone, and you can now actually see it.
The opposite side, above the student section, still has boards running across the entirety of the base line. These boards look far better than what was visible last season. There are six large photos - two featuring gymnastics, one each featuring men's and women's basketball, one featuring the crowd, and one of the outside of the Coliseum. There is another high-def video board, and another stats board in the middle.
All of these things are massive improvements over what was in place last year. And the basic addition of an over-head scoreboard makes a world of difference. Coleman Coliseum no longer looks like an arena that just happens to be used for basketball. It now looks like a basketball arena.
There has also been a small student section added along the base line opposite the existing student section. This small section of the Crimson Chaos will "seat" 130 students... only there are no seats. There are three risers for the students to stand on. It should allow the students to remain impactful on the game when the opponent is shooting at the opposite goal.
The majority of the media has been moved into the stands in a nice looking section that replaces the lowest seats in section O. This has allowed for considerably more seating on the floor for the big money folks.
As for the game itself... it was about what a 28 point victory normally looks like. There wasn't a 20-0 run that opened the game, but just a systematic whipping of a team that Alabama should whip. Montevallo made just 3 of its first 20 shots, and never closed the gap below the 15 half time margin.
We got a chance to see Alabama press on defense, a lot - helping to force 20 turnovers. We also saw the Tide run a good bit - which unfortunately led to 22 turnovers. There was also a good bit of both the half court offense and half court defense, and both were very different than what we saw under the old coaching staff.
There was an effort and an intensity to the way that the guys played, and it was nice to see. The team can certainly play better, but for a first go out of the gate, it was not bad at all.
The Tide shot 48.1% from the field, while holding Montevallo to just 33.3%. Bama was 41.2% from the 3-pt line, with the Falcons coming in at 38.5%. At the free throw line Bama held the edge 66.7% to 56.2%.
Bama had 16 assists to go with its 22 turnovers, also adding six blocks and 10 steals. The Tide out rebounded the Falcons 47 to 31.
Coach Grant was active on the sidelines, especially when Bama was on the defensive end. The game did not dictate any demonstrative behavior, so we'll have to wait to see how he'll be when things get more intense. Interestingly enough, he didn't call any of his five time outs during the game.
One change that he has brought to the mix is where the Tide sets up during the media time outs. Taking a cue from his former boss, Florida's Billy Donovan, the five guys who are officially in the game sit on stools about 10 feet from the bench, with the rest of the players behind them. Coach Grant also sits on a stool, facing the entire team.
As for the individuals:
#1 Anthony Brock - in 20 minutes he had 2 points and 3 assists. While that doesn't jump off of the page at you, he had 5 steals and just 1 turnover. He demonstrated last season that he is a better than average shooter, so his 0-5 night from the field doesn't concern me. He did a solid job of running the half court offense, and was the focal point of Bama's press defense. He'll likely be in the top five in the league in steals.
#2 Mikhail Torrence - In 23 minutes he had 12 points and 6 assists. In typical Torrence fashion, he also had 4 turnovers. In his defense, when Bama pushed the ball, he was typically the guy with his hands on the ball. And for a team learning to run, that's going to typically mean extra turnovers. He added 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 rebounds in what was a pretty solid overall performance. He shot 3-6 from the field, but struggled from the foul line (5-9). He was a solid foul shooter last year, so I'm not overly concerned.
#5 Tony Mitchell - it wasn't a great debut for a guy who waited through a year of prep school to make his way to Tuscaloosa. In 20 minutes he had 3 points and 4 rebounds. He shot just 1-4 from the field, with his lone basket a nifty layup on a fast break. He shows good athleticism, but didn't have much of stroke tonight - which is his specialty. He played hard on the defensive end of the ball, and that will keep him in the rotation from a minutes standpoint.
#10 Ben Eblund - the same could be said for the Tide's other freshman guard. He played just 14 minutes and did not score. He only attempted one shot, which was blocked. He did have 3 assists, to 2 turnovers, and did a nice job of running the half court offense. He'll have to learn to be more aggressive with his shot before conference play rolls around.
#20 Greg Cage - the Tide's loan walk-on had 6 points in the first half. I'm guessing they were probably the first points that he's ever scored in a first half in his time at Bama. Greg isn't an overly talented guy, but he works and plays hard. Don't be surprised to see him get 4-6 minutes per game, especially if the Tide is in foul trouble. He played just 8 minutes on Wednesday night, shooting 2-3 from the field, knocking down his loan 3-pt attempt.
#21 Senario Hillman - everyone seemed to think that he would be a perfect fit for the style of play that Anthony Grant likes to play with. Everyone was right. Hillman is typically the best athlete on the floor, but he's developed into a pretty solid basketball player. He's going to have nights where he will likely shoot you out of a game, but Wed. wasn't one of those nights. He played just 18 minutes, mostly in the first half, and shot 4-5 from the field (2-3 from 3-pt range). His 10 points all came in the first half, where it looked like Bama was making a conceted effort to get him shots. In that limited time he also had 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, and 1 steal. He also had 3 turnovers, but that's going to come with playing the full-speed game that he plays.
#24 Charvez Davis - the JuCo transfer had evidently struggled some in practice, but looked to be the most game-ready of all of the Tide's newcomers. Like most JuCo guys, he's got some work to do on the defensive end, but this guy can be a factor immediately. He has a lightning quick release on his jump shot - maybe the fastest I've seen on a Bama player in two decades. Shot selection can sometimes be a shaky thing for JuCo guys, but he layed pretty well within himself against Montevallo - going 4-7 overall and 3-5 behind the arc. He finished with 11 points, 1 rebound, and 1 assist in 21 minutes.
#25 Andrew Steele - what you see is what you get with Andrew. He's not likely to ever be a guy who scores 30 points, but he doesn't try to be that guy, either. He plays his role. He defends hard and runs the offense. If you leave him open, he'll shoot. If the offensive call dictates him taking the ball to the basket, he'll do that. He only shot the ball 3 times, making 1, in his 18 minutes on the floor. To go with his 3 points h had 5 rebounds and a steal. That's a pretty typical night.
#32 JaMychal Green - he didn't score in the first half, and that's the only thing that stopped him from having a monster night against a team that had no answer for him inside. As I mentioned above, it looked like Bama was trying to attack the Falcons from the outside in the first half - using the game as a practice to face a team that will force the perimeter game to win. In the second half it the Tide decided to go after Montevallo inside, and Green was the man. He played just 18 minutes, but had 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks - with only 1 turnover. He is Bama's legit inside threat, and he'll need to play with this level of intensity every night for Bama to win.
#40 Justin Knox - he might disagree with the notion that Green is Bama's only legit inside threat. In 22 minutes he had 13 points and 9 rebounds. The best part about that line is that he was able to get most of those points himself - pulling down 7 offensive rebounds. He still lacks a solid back to the basket game, which makes it a little more difficult for him to be a guy that Bama can run the offense through. He was bigger and stronger than everyone on Montevallo's team, so he had a pretty big advantage. He'll need to demonstrate that he can provide that type of rebounding prowess against an evenly matched team. If he can, then Bama should have no problems when teams force the Tide into a half-court game. If he can't, then Bama will have to outrun teams.
#44 Chris Hines - despite getting to start the game, this is probably a night Hines would rather forget. In 18 minutes he had just 2 points and 1 rebound, to go with 5 turnovers. He attempted just 2 shots. He looked and played like he was nervous. And that's going to happen early in the career of some guys. It is exactly why you play exhibition games. He's athletic, and looked like he can provide Bama with quality minutes. He obviously did something in practice to warrant getting a start, and he's got to learn to bring that to the game floor. I'm looking forward to seeing how he responds to this outing when Bama takes the floor for its second exhibition game.
That game will be Tuesday night at 7:00 against Augusta State.
Some other notes that might be of interest:
- The box score lists an official attendance of 10,245. While there probably only around 3,500 people there, that official number counts all tickets sold. That means that Bama probably sold close to 10,000 season tickets. That's a solid number and indicates the level of excitement that the hiring of Anthony Grant has brought to the program.
- The new Alabama uniform looked a little different in person than it did in the photos released to the media a few weeks back. The difference was a detail that didn't show up in those photos. I could not tell whether the uniform was segmented into three in sections with a small seam, or if there was a light, thin grey pinstripe. Either way, the jersey is not a solid block of white all the way around. It looked nice.
- And for those that wonder about what a new coach will wear in his first game out - for Coach Grant it was a nice black suit, with a white shirt, and a crimson tie with small white elephants. He looked like an Alabama man.
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