Sunday, January 25, 2015

Arkansas Agony Abated, Alabama Abolishes auburn, 57-55

You get a two for one deal today here at the Bamahoops blog thanks for my neglecting to recap the Arkansas game last Thursday.  

We played respectably well in Fayetteville, in a tough environment against a big team that is a bad matchup for us. Like we've done all year, we battled back when things looked bleak and got the game into overtime.  We were dominated on the boards, again, and that was ultimately the difference in the game. Justin Coleman had a breakout game, scoring 22 points, and Cooper had a great first half, while Levi stepped up late and in overtime.  

Once again, our clock management skills would make Les Miles cringe.  Down 3, with 20 seconds remaining, we pass up a wide open 3 only to throw the ball in to Kessens in the paint, WITH 2 SECONDS LEFT ON THE CLOCK, but Arkansas inexplicably bailed us out with a dumb foul giving Mike the And One. Hale finally stepped up and make a big 3 to tie the game late in the overtime period, but then proceeded to stare at the ball at the other end instead of blocking his man out, who got the rebound and the put back to end the game. 

So with a quick turnaround we had to play our in-state rivals Saturday afternoon.  auburn played over their heads, as we knew they would, and Bama did not match their intensity for the first 35 minutes of the game.  

auburn torched our zone early and forced us to switch to a man.  From there, the game just got extremely physical and ugly on both ends.  I usually try to refrain from criticizing the officials, and I know this was a difficult game to call, but they blew a number of calls on both sides and generally just let the game get out of control.  Our guys seemed to get frustrated easily, I think we let the officials take us out of our game a bit.  Bowers for auburn is one of the dirtiest, most classless players I have seen in a long time. He was taking cheap shots on Kessens and Cooper all day, running his mouth, talking trash, and even flexing and taunting our guys when they got a 8 point lead. There may be a bit of Karma involved in Levi and Coop beating him to key rebounds in the final minute as we came back to win the game.    

I was actually hoping Grant would do something to pick up a technical foul in the second half.  I thought the team needed to know he had their back, and it would help energize a team that looked lethargic.  Instead, it was Tarrant who picked up his 2nd technical foul leading to an ejection.  Tarrant's technical foul was a byproduct of the holding and pushing every time auburn pressed, and the officials not calling it all day.  To say auburn played physical would be an understatement.  It's almost as if Antoine Mason passed on the knowledge he learned from his Dad's cheap-shot artist NY knicks teams of the 90's to his auburn teammates.     Regardless, the team seemed to pick it up a notch after his ejection, with Levi getting a steal and a dunk and the comeback was on. 

Coleman did a nice job of running the point down the stretch, and Levi took it upon himself to get us back in the game.  As many games as we have lost on the boards this year, it was great to win won when Cooper got the put back from Levi's missed shot at the end.  

You guys know I am not a fan of this trophy presentation, as I believe it reinforces the notion that basketball is the little brother sport in this state.  That being said, I'm not sure we have a sellout crowd without it, and the atmosphere was actually great.  Nobody left at halftime and the crowd was loud and supportive down the stretch.  It was great to see Coach Grant actually encouraging the crowd to make noise late in the game.  auburn brought more fans than usual, I would say maybe 1,000 or so.  It was a little disappointing to see several of them sitting in the floor and other premium seating areas. 

Make no mistake, as long as that sleaze bag of a coach resides in Lee County, their talent level will improve, they will play dirty on and off the floor, and they will become more than a nuisance.  

Up next, another quick turnaround as the Florida Gators come in for an 8pm tip off Tuesday night.  Coach Grant has never beat Billy Donovan, but this is a Gators team that is a little down this year, and if we want to make the NCAA tournament this is almost a must-have game.  Let's see if we can make it 3 sell outs in a row.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fresh Meat- Auburn Tigers 8:30PM EST (7:30PM CST)

Auburn (10-8/2-3) visits Tuscaloosa to take on OUR Crimson tide (12-6/2-3)

This is a big game for both teams. Both are coming off disappointing losses... us to Arkansas in OT and the Barn to M$U at home. Auburn has yet to win a road game so we have that going for us.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fresh Meat- @ Arkansas 7PM EST (6PM CST) on ESPN2

Both teams are on 2 game losing streaks so something has to give. We got beat down by Kentucky at home while Arkansas got blown out by Ole Miss in Fayetteville. All signs point to this being the Hogs recovery game.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

SEC Power Rankings

The season is flying by. Selection Sunday is a little less than 8 weeks from today. Will our beloved Crimson Tide hear their name called? That remains to be seen, but they've still got a puncher's chance. Something we couldn't say this time last season.

 I figure we can post a power ranking here every couple of weeks to create discussion, name-calling, silent nods of disapproval, etc. Please feel free to share your own power rankings in the comments section.

1. Kentucky - The safest bet in the conference. The Wildcats had some struggles to open SEC play, but have won their past two games by a combined 71 points, including Saturday's dismissal of Alabama by 22. This team is good enough to take nights off and survive. And when they play their best, forget about it. Unfortunately, the dominance Kentucky has shown so far this season has put them in a corner with the media and their own fans. Anything less than a national championship and this season will be seen as a disappointment.

2. Georgia - You could put any number of teams in this spot. Seven teams, including Georgia, currently sit at 2-2 as we begin the third week of conference play. The league desperately needs a few teams to distance themselves from the pack over the next couple of weeks in order to aid the chances of increased representation in the NCAA tournament. For now, I'll put Georgia here. They've got a solid resume. An RPI in the top 30. Good wins over Seton Hall (RPI: 18) and at Kansas State (currently in 1st place in the Big 12). They started 0-2 in league play, but bounced back with a win at Vanderbilt and an impressive showing this past weekend against Florida. Not a flashy team, but solid enough to pick up double digit victories in conference and make the NCAA Tournament.

3. Florida - The Gators challenged themselves in the non-conference, but didn't pick up any quality wins (and a loss to Florida State - RPI: 133 - is going to stick). As a result, Florida probably needs to win at least 12 games in SEC play to put themselves on the bubble. They're off to a good start at 3-1 in league play, but two of those wins were home wins over Mississippi State and Auburn, two teams not expected to finish anywhere near the top of the standings. Fortunately for Florida, they seem to be improving, and they're as healthy as they've been all season. I'm not sure Florida has enough firepower to return to the NCAA tournament, but I'm not ready to count them out either.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

CATastrophe. UK 70 UA 48

The stage was set for the biggest game at Coleman Coliseum in years.  Kentucky came in ranked number one in the land with an undefeated record.  There wasn't an empty seat to be found in the gym, and the game was nationally televised on ESPN.  Kentucky won the tip, but Levi Randolph got a steal and a fast break basket.  2-0 Bama, and the capacity crowd was standing and rocking.

Unfortunately, that was the highlight of the day.  Kentucky dominated every phase of the game.  It was 35-17 at halftime, and we got on a run to start the second half which cut the deficit to 9, but with our bigs in foul trouble Kentucky had the lead back to 20+ in short order.

Almost none of the things that I identified as being necessary to win before the game came to fruition.  We only shot 18 threes, making 5 of them.  I have no idea why we insisted on trying to attack the basket on the dribble drive.  It was an exercise in futility against their trees.  We also passed up too many decent shots early in the shot clock only to have to force something in desperation to beat the clock.

We played a lot of zone, but Kentucky shot the ball well from the outside, making 8 of 17 from three point range.  As we all feared, the Cats dominated the boards.  We didn't get a single rebound in the first 5 minutes of the game.

Retin Obasohan started in place of Ricky Tarrant who was playing through some type of foot injury.  Levi and Cooper both had good games with 13 and 10 points each.

When Kentucky plays reasonably well, they are unbeatable, and that was the case Saturday.  I thought they took the foot off the gas a bit in the second half, It could have been a lot worse.  They will make a lot of good teams look bad.  We can't let this game negatively effect our confidence.  Hopefully the team will bounce back with a good performance on the road Thursday night.  We have a very tough schedule over the next couple of weeks.

Kentucky probably had about 3,000 fans there, and in the second half their "Go Big Blue" chants were all that could be heard.  Our crowd was loud for the first 3 minutes or so, but got quieter as the Kentucky lead grew.

Up next, we go to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Hogs Thursday night.  They are coming off a disappointing home loss to Ole Miss.  It's a chance to get a top 50 road win, but will be a very difficult task in a hostile environment.  Tipoff is set for 6pm on ESPN2.

Cats Clobber Crimsons

As expected, Alabama was no match for Kentucky. Their size, strength, quickness and depth were simply too much for the Tide. Randolph, Cooper and Kessens seemed tentative after being stuffed repeatedly under the basket. Taylor, our only true post player, picked up two unwise fouls after having been beaten while on the floor. The score at the half was something like 35-17. Bama adjusted well and cut the lead to nine. Taylor picked up his fourth foul about four minutes in and was over.  Kentucky played smart and and strong. They pressed our players all around the court without picking up fouls. They play defense mostly with their feet. We were beaten in every phase of the game. Hopefully we can bounce back.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fresh Meat- Kentucky comes to town... biggest game in 5 years 4PM EST (3PM CST)

The near unanimous #1 team in the land (2 votes for UVA) come to Tuscaloosa for a tilt that could be memorable... or a tail kicking like Kentucky did to Missouri earlier in the week.

We all know that their 1st nine are probably more talented than our best player, but it's BASKETBALL and the best team doesn't always win. We have a puncher's chance IF we shoot OUT OF OUR MINDS from outside (not the 30% 3pt FG we are shooting on the season). Let Cooper and Norris take most of those since they are our best shooters.