Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Ole Miss 82 Bama 74.

I missed the first 5 minutes of the game because I had to take care of a work call before entering the gym.  I understand we jumped out to an 8-0 lead, and we were still up 15-9 when I made my way down to my seat.  Maybe I should have just stayed in the car.

Unfortunately, the trend of only playing one good half continued.  We lost momentum in the closing minutes of the first half when we bricked some free throws, turned the ball over, and gave up a 3 pointer at the buzzer cutting our lead in half at 30-27.  In the second half, once Jimmie Taylor went out of the game with 3 fouls Ole Miss went on a 17-3 run (before we called a timeout, I might add) to take a 9 point lead.  The key series of events came with around 9 minutes left, and Ole Miss leading by 3. The Rebels missed a 3, but Kessens failed to block out and Ole Miss got the rebound, making good on their next 3 point attempt.  In fairness, Jimmie Taylor was at the scorer's table waiting to check in at that point.  Rather than calling a timeout, Cooper turned the ball over leading to another wide open 3, giving the Rebels a 9 point lead.  We finally called the timeout, but the lead was too much to overcome.

With Jimmie on the bench, Ole Miss did not have to respect our inside game so they really extended their defense and put a lot of pressure on our guards.  We had too many turnovers and otherwise could not get anything going offensively for much of the second half.  The turnovers, and inability to slow down the Rebels point guard play, led to an abysmal second half defensive performance.

During the timeout, Coach Brannen really chewed Mike Kessens, but Mike's body language was not very receptive or respectful.

With our recent second half struggles, I have to wonder if the lack of depth is becoming an issue.  We're only going 8 deep, including playing Dakota Slaughter for 21 minutes in this game.  Dakota had a very nice game, scoring 8 points and going 2 for 4 from 3 point range, and he held his own defensively.  Perhaps he should have been receiving a little more playing time all along, I think he's at least good enough to give us some quality minutes while the scholarship guys get a breather.  I also don't understand why we haven't seen Devin Mitchell the last few games.  Especially as much as we were pressing once we fell behind in the second half, it would have been nice to have some more warm bodies out there.

I have to give credit to Ole Miss's Stefan Moody.  I really like the way he plays the game.  He's a lot like Retin athletically only quicker, but he has outstanding vision and makes great decisions.  He scored 25 points, and his dribble-drive and passing ability directly led to many more.

It's unfortunate this senior class had to go out with a loss, as they have stuck with us and continued to work hard through good and bad times the last 4 years.  Levi certainly did everything he could as captain, 32 points, 39 minutes, and a school record 17 for 17 from the line.  Coop also finished strong with 14 points and 6 of 7 from the line, and as discussed above Dakota Slaughter played well, and probably could have got even more minutes if not for having to come out of the game with a bloody nose.  It's sad that we may never get to watch those 3 play in Coleman again, and I certainly wish them the best in the future.

It was a small crowd of only around 4,000, but many people moved down closer to the court and those who showed up were generally loud and supportive, trying to will the team back from behind in the final minutes.

If you thought we would be a bubble team this year, congratulations, you were right.  We are squarely on the NIT bubble.

The loss was a huge blow to any realistic chances we had of making a run in the SEC tournament.  With Florida's win over Texas A&M, we are now mathematically eliminated from 7th place.  We will more than likely have to face either Florida or Vanderbilt in the Thursday game, and we all know what little success we've had against either of those teams.  If you are still holding out hope, the best case scenario for us is Tennessee somehow upset LSU in Baton Rouge tonight then beat South Carolina while we lose our final game to drop down to the 10 seed and avoid a potential second round matchup with Kentucky.

Up next, we go to College Station, TX to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in a 1 pm tipoff that will be televised on FSN.  As I said above, a loss could be better for our SEC tournament projections, but a win is likely needed for NIT hopes, for whatever that is worth.  I am making the trip, which will complete my tour of the SEC arenas.  I'm looking forward to meeting MSmilie at the game.



Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Fresh Meat- Senior Night vs Ole Miss 7PM EST (6PM CST) SECN

The Black Bear Rebels come into Tuscaloosa looking for their 20th win of the season and to improve their NCAAT status (only an epic collapse would leave them on the outside looking in). Meanwhile, we are looking to rebound from an AUful 2nd half in Nashville and creep one step closer to .500 in conference play.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Commodores Conquer Crimson, 73-66

Well, at least this game was different.  Normally we spend the first half setting the game of basketball back a few decades.  Today, we played arguably the best half of basketball we have all year in the first half.  We had great spacing and ball movement on offense, played at a reasonably fast tempo, took care of the basketball, and generally defended well.

The second half was more like every game we've seen in Memorial Gymnasium the last 30 years or so.  Every questionable call went against us, and Vandy made just about every 3 and free throw they took.  The names and players change but the script stays the same.

I think our lack of depth caught up with us in the second half.  We only went 8 deep, including Dakota Slaughter who played 7 minutes and made a three.  I do not understand why Devin Mitchell did not get into the game.

Vandy made 5 straight from downtown to start the second half and erase our 14 point lead.  It would have been nice to call a timeout at some point and try to stop their momentum and maybe give our guys a breather.

Kessens was a question mark but he was able to play, and I thought he played well, scoring 10 points in his 15 minutes.  Retin, Levi, and Coop all stepped up and played well.  Unfortunately, Riley had an off day when we badly needed him to take up the slack from missing Shannon Hale.

Even though we out-rebounded them, we failed to get the boards when needed.  I thought a key possession in the game came with about 6 minutes left after we cut their lead down to 4.  We allowed Vandy to score on their third opportunity, then Levi had a bad turnover at the other end which led to another Vandy score.  Give credit to the Dores for making the plays and being automatic from the free throw line down the stretch.

Kudos to the Nashville area Bama fans for representing and the North Alabama contingent who made the trip.  I could hear you guys over the television when things were going well in the first half.

Up next, the Ole Miss Rebels come in for a 6 pm tipoff Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum.  It's the last home game of the season, so if you can do so, please come out and show your appreciation for seniors Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.

Revenge Meat- @ Vanderbilt 4PM EST (3PM CST) FSN

17-11 (7-8) visits 16-12 (6-9) in a NIT implication matchup. We NEED to win today to maintain the all-time series edge as it is 67-66 our way right now. We also need to win today if we want to have a chance at finishing .500 in the conference.

Vanderbilt has won 3 of their last 4... including the embarrassing road win at Coleman 2 weeks ago.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Levi Randolph Named Academic All-American; Ricky Tarrant Out for Season

As someone who was, shall we say, an average student, Levi's accomplishment today of being named the first Academic All-American in Alabama basketball history is something that I find extremely impressive. Being a student alone has it's share of challenges. Being an athlete on top of that is even more challenging. Congratulations to Levi for being able to balance the pressures in the classroom along with his responsibilities as a basketball player. He's been a class act and a great representative for the university.

Link: http://www.rolltide.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/022615aaa.html

It was also announced today that Ricky Tarrant will undergo season-ending surgery. Ricky has plantar fasciitis and what was referred to as a "bony prominence" on his knee which will also require surgery. Hopefully he will be able to make a full recovery and return next year for his senior season.

Other injury news: looks like Shannon Hale is out for Saturday's game at Vanderbilt as a result of that foot injury that occurred on Tuesday night. No word on the severity of the injury, but I've got a bad feeling we may not see Shannon return this season either. Grant says Mike Kessens is day-to-day, and will be a game-time decision on Saturday. In other words, Alabama could be playing very small ball for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Short Handed Bama Beats Cocks

Bama overcame another slow start and a bunch of injuries to get the win.  Ricky Tarrant remains out with his foot injury, Mike Kessens was a late scratch for some type of injury, I can only assume it's his knee that has been bothering him at times throughout the year, and Shannon Hale hurt his foot early in the second half.  This left us incredibly short, but the remaining players made the necessary plays to win.

We started out in a 10-3 hole in yet another painful to watch first half.  The pace was slow and South Carolina was very physical on defense.  We ran into problems on numerous occasions late in the shot clock.  Thankfully, we actually shot well from the perimeter which allowed us to draw even at halftime, 22-22, and build a lead early in the second half.  

It looked like the game was going to take a turn for the worse when Jimmie Taylor picked up his 4th foul with 12 minutes to play in the game.  We had an 8 point lead at the time, but with Kessens already out with an injury this left us with no big men.  Predictably, USCe murdered us on the glass.  They outrebounded Alabama by 10, and 17-6 on the offensive glass.  With Jimmie on the bench, it seemed like the Cocks could pound the ball inside and score every possession.  

Thankfully, our guys had the answer.  We managed to keep it close until Taylor got back in the game late and provided us with some stops and rebounds.  Levi bounced back from his awful game against UGA and scored 17 points while playing 38 minutes.  I thought he made some key baskets for us down the stretch.  Retin had another solid game with 14 points and Coop also bounced back with 11 points, including a couple of dunks that awakened the small gathering of spectators and gave us some momentum.  

Another big improvement from the UGA game came at the charity stripe.  We made 9 of our last 10 free throws to put the game away in the final minutes.  

As an official, I really dislike Ted Valentine's antics on the court.  Good officials are the ones you never notice.  In dealing with coaches, you should recognize that it is a passionate game, give them some reasonable leeway to vent and complain, and answer questions and communicate in a professional manner.  Teddy goes out of his way to draw attention to himself every time he makes a call.  In the first half, Coach Grant apparently noticed the same thing that I did, and said something to the officials about Carolina's excessive hand-checking in their man-to-man defense.  Grant was not making a scene, nor asking for a response.  Teddy felt the need to delay putting the ball in play and approach Grant, yelling at him loudly enough that I could clearly hear him say repeatedly, "your guys are doing the same thing, you really don't want me to start calling that."  At another point, after he made a questionable call against us, and we were setting up the press at the other end of the court, he walked all the way down in front of our bench before taking his rightful spot in front of the SC bench to officiate the press.  

The crowd was pathetic.  I would estimate no more than 4,000 or so there, and they were generally not very passionate nor knowledgeable.  At one point I overheard someone who had moved down from the rafters sitting near us explain to his child why we got the ball on a back-court violation.  The problem is, the officials called a 10 second violation on that particular play.  The Stars Wars theme could not have been a bigger bust.  Between the small disinterested crowd and creepy people wandering around aimlessly dressed as Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers, it had the atmosphere of a minor league baseball game without the cheap beer.  And I say that as someone who loves minor league baseball, but it's not an ideal environment for a college basketball contest.  They simultaneously had a "wear blue for diabetes awareness" campaign that was announced less than 24 hrs before the contest and was basically a flop.  I'm all for supporting a good cause, but unless I knew it would magically make us play like Kentucky, I'm not wearing blue to a UA basketball game.  

Up next, another shot at revenge, as we travel to our house of horrors in Nashville to take on Vandy in Memorial gym.  The game will start at 3pm and will be televised on FSN.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2nd Chance Meat- SC Cocks part 2 7PM EST (6PM CST)

Despite the 4-10 conference record, SC Lite seems to be improved. Of their 10 conference losses, 4 of them have been by 6 points or less. Sounds similar doesn't it?

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