Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tide Tackles Tigers, 69-49

Stillman is not very good, and we basically treated this as an exhibition game, playing lots of players and experimenting with different lineups.  Rodney Cooper and Ricky Tarrant got the night off.  Justin Coleman and Riley Norris were joined by Devin Mitchell, who hasn't been playing much in recent games, in the starting lineup.

Coming off the heartbreaking loss at Wichita, many were concerned that there would be a hangover effect.  The young starting lineup did their job and set the tone of the game right off the bat, jumping out to a 12-2 lead, while holding Stillman scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the game.

After that, it got a little sloppy, as we treaded water for the rest of the first half and only lead by 13 at the break. We pulled away in the second half, but it was a sloppy game for the most part.  We only shot 3 of 20 from 3 point range, turned it over 16 times, and we had stretches during the game where we did not rebound well.

On the positive side we had 5 guys score in double figures, with Justin Coleman leading all scorers with 14.  It was good to see John Gibson and Dakota Slaughter get some minutes.  I thought Shannon Hale played well, despite missing 5 free throws.  Levi was solid as always and Riley Norris played a great game, putting up 13 points and 7 boards. Kessens really struggled, with 4 fouls, 2 points, and a couple of bad turnovers in 16 minutes.  That's Moussa Gueye/Karl Engstrom bad, and we're going to need much better production out of him in the post if we expect to beat decent teams.

One of the more exciting moments of the night came when one of the Coliseum's light bulbs blew, which sounded light a firecracker going off.  The fixture was smoking for several minutes later, but thankfully nothing caught on fire.

With the students gone and an early 6 pm tipoff on a rainy Friday night during the holiday season, attendance was predictably horrible.  I would estimate a gathering of no more than 1,200. I don't understand why we start games at 6pm when there is no TV.  I was barely able to make tipoff myself coming from Birmingham.  Stillman normally brings a decent crowd across town, but they were noticeably absent last night.

Up next, it's a quick turnaround to get ready for Appalachian State, who comes in for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff Sunday.  Speaking of Birmingham, this would be a perfect game to play in the state's largest city.  I'm not expecting much of a crowd going up against Sunday before Christmas church services in Ttown tomorrow night.  The game will be televised on SEC Network.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fresh Meat- Stillman Tigers 7PM EST (6PM CST)

Stillman makes the long road trip to Coleman to face a dejected team that should've beaten Wichita State Tuesday. Let's see how the Tide performs.

Season stats

Stillman is 4-3 on the season... played a bunch of tomato cans so far so we'll see if this is a laugher at the half.

Offensive stats look good at 85.8 PPG, 46.5% FG and 39.2% from beyond the arc... against questionable competition though. Rodnerius Lewis leads the team with 25.2 PPG with Jamon Jackson-Wilson grabbing over 7 board a game.

they have a +11 rebound edge so that could pose a problem if we let them hang around. I don't think we will, and the thousands in attendance can celebrate a Friday night win.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Shocked by Shockers, Wichita State 53, Bama 52.

This was a golden opportunity to pick up a huge road win over a quality opponent to boost our NCAA tournament resume, and we blew it.  Yes, we played better than expected, but there are no moral victories.  This was a painful loss that epitomizes our inability to finish games over the last 6 years.  We were in great position to shock the country with an 11 point lead with 6 minutes left in the game.  We proceeded to be outscored 13-1 in the last 6 minutes.

The end result is all that matters, but it wasn't like the night was a complete disaster.  We faced a top 15 team on the road, and not only held our own, but took it to them for most of the game.  The offense wasn't great, but WSU is a very good defensive team, so I can live with that.  Shannon Hale has struggled much of this year, but made some great plays for us.  He finished tied with Levi for leading team scorer with 13 points, and really gave us a spark off the bench.

The bench was constantly up and into the game, and there were several possessions in the second half when WSU scored to cut the lead to 5 or 6, and we showed great poise in executing the offense and getting a basket on the other end to maintain our comfortable 8-10 pt lead.

I liked our game plan overall.  WSU has some big wings and guards, but while they have a size advantage in the post their big men aren't particularly skilled.  We started out in a tight man and put some pressure on them, but then switched to a zone mostly in the second half and we did a good job, for the most part, of closing out on their perimeter shooters.  Taylor and Kessens cleaned up the glass and guarded the rim well.  Everything was looking as good as could be expected and we had a double digit lead on the road with around 6 minutes to play, but then the momentum shifted.

I loved the effort tonight.  I felt like we outworked them for most of the evening.  We had better energy, beat them to loose balls, etc.  When it came down to clutch time, they responded and we didn't have an answer.  There were a few questionable calls in the last 5 minutes that did not go our way, but you have to expect that and be able to overcome it on the road, and we were not.  I thought Taylor fouling out was a huge factor in the outcome of the game.  They relentlessly attacked the rim the final minutes, and routinely either got to the line or got second chance opportunities.

We were outmatched and on the road in a hostile environment and had a chance to win, so I'm hesitant to criticize Coach Grant for this one.  I thought we were well prepared, and showed  a great amount of mental toughness for much of the game (at least up until the point when Taylor fouled out), but again, I think we misused the timeout situation at the end of the game.  We had a timeout remaining, down one (we would have been tied, but Levi had another off night from the line and only made one of two the previous trip), and with about 4-5 seconds remaining it was obvious there was no clear path to the basket that would result in an open shot.  THAT is the time to call a timeout.  Instead, we waited until the ball was knocked away and we were fortunate to recover with 1.2 seconds remaining, which only leaves enough time to draw up a desperation catch and shoot from Cooper from beyond the arc.

Heartbreaking loss, and while there is a lot of basketball to be played, it's very possible that this will be one that keeps us out of the tournament.  Up next, Stillman comes across town for another ridiculous tipoff time, 6 pm Central Friday night.

Fresh Meat- @ Wichita St

Day job has kept me busy so here's a link from earlier in the year with a team preview.
Game is 9pm EST (8CST).

My expectation is for us to be in the game for the most part. Keep it competitive and I'm content.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Tide 65 Tennessee Tech 53.

Bama came out flat and appeared uninspired for much of the first half.  The offense was stagnant with little movement and we had problems with Eagles man to man defense.  Tennessee Tech was able to knock down some open 3s and get some second chance opportunities to build a 13 point lead in the first half. We finished strong after the 8 minute media timeout in the first half and was able to take a 1 point lead into halftime.

Rodney Cooper had a great game and led us to victory with 23 points including 2 of 4 from 3 point range and 11 of 14 from the free throw line.  On the bright side, our defense was much better than it's been most of the season.  I think the Eagles only scored once from the floor in the final 9 minutes or so.

The last couple of seasons we have played poorly in these December games immediately after finals.  At least this year we found a way to avoid the embarrassing loss.

The substitution patterns did not make much sense to me.  Kessens got his first start over Shannon Hale, and played reasonably well.  Tarrant was said to be cramping up and did not play much in the second half, but Retin Obasohan got the bulk of his minutes over Justin Coleman.  Retin played fairly well, but I still think Coleman should be getting more minutes.  He's rarely used in the second half of games.

We only shot 14 three pointers in this game, and made 6.  Credit to Tennessee Tech for putting an emphasis on slowing down our perimeter game.  Other than Rodney Cooper, we did not make our free throws either.  The normally automatic Levi was only 4 for 8.

The 8pm start on the same night as graduation resulted in a very small, apathetic gathering to watch this one.  I would estimate no more than 2,000 fans in the house, with probably less than 100 students. I expect more of the same with the 2 games next weekend.

Up next, we travel to Wichita, Kansas to take on the 11th ranked Wichita State Shockers.  In theory, it's a great opportunity to pick up a huge quality win on the road.  In reality, we will probably be on the wrong end of a severe beat down.   The game is Tuesday night at 8 pm Central time on ESPN2.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fresh Meat- Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles 9PM EST (8PM CST)

If you put a gun to my head and asked me before I googled what the Tennessee Tech mascot was I would've been a goner. Golden Eagles... that's about as bland as... Tigers.

Write up from Tenn Tech.
Radio: 106.1 The Eagle
Webcast: TideTV
Season stats

Charles Jackson and Dwan Cardwell lead the team offensively at 14.0 and 13.8 a game. Jackson also pulls down 10 boards a game so watch him on the glass. I suspect Jimmie Taylor gets the assignment most of the game with Kessens/Norris switching up.

Offensively as a team... meh as 45% FG and 26.4% beyond the arc (which is about what I shoot today). They are +6 on the boards.

Tech has lost all of their road games so far... and I don't expect that to change after tonight.

If you want to see our season stats click here. Besides yours truly, no one would've guessed that Cooper would be leading in 3 point percentage (attempting more than 10 shots). We know about Levi's offensive side, but what I'm most impressed about is his 19/6 assist to turnover margin.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Musketeers Maul Men's Team

Alabama jumped out to a quick lead before falling to the Xavier Musketeers 97 to 84, but the game did not seem as close as the final score.  Our team played fairly effectively in the middle of the first half while Xavier's big man sat on the bench with two fouls.  Then Bama's outside shots refused to fall while they could not work the ball underneath the basket.  We had no answers for their zone.  Here's a Box Score.

Please see the comments to Bobby Jack's "Fresh Meat" post previewing the game for real analysis.  I was flipping back and forth between our game and the ACC Championship football game.

The one thing I liked most about this game was when Head Coach Anthony Grant (finally) drew a technical foul after protesting a charge called against Riley Norris after a Musketeer "flop" caused an official to waive off one of the few inside hoops I saw us score.  The official might have made a good call.  I don't know.  The camera angle we had did not allow me to see whether any real contact was made.  It seemed to me the official who blew the whistle suffered the same disadvantage, and I suspect that is why Grant was so upset with the call.  It really was good to see Coach Grant defend his player so vigorously that he drew a zebra's ire.  I hope his passion continues and filters its way into the team.

As has been noted below, our kids are not playing particularly good defense right now, but they still are much more fun to watch than they have been recently.  I hope to make my first pilgrimage to Coleman Coliseum next Saturday/