We survived a scare from USM tonight and escaped with a 2 point victory at home. We were actually in control for the majority of the game. Hollinger got the majority of playing time at PG, and did an outstanding job of taking care of the basketball. Justin Knox got a lot of playing time ahead of Yamene, and while he did not light up the scoreboard, he played solid fundamental basketball getting rebounds, setting screens, and playing defense. Alonzo Gee had one of his better games, making the two clutch free throws with .5 seconds left to secure the win.
I was surprised that USM did not press us more. We turned the ball over 25 times against Troy's 2-2-1 press, but haven't seen it since. Not that I'm complaining, it is just surprising. Perhaps Mercer, Belmont, and Southern Miss do not feel they have the depth to run a press for much of the game. We played very good man to man defense for most of this game, and while we didn't shoot very much from the perimeter, we controlled the game with our post play. Hendrix had another double-double, and we led by double digits for much of the game.
So, why did this game come down to the final second? It all started with about 3:30 left in the game. We were in a man to man defense, still with a comfortable 7 point lead. USM set a stagger screen on Tubbs, and the man setting the pick wrapped his arms around Justin as he tried to fight through the pick. The official, who had been calling a very tight game to that point, failed to make a call, leaving Justin's man wide open on the wing for a 3 point shot which cut the lead to 4. Riley and Tubbs both took some quick, ill-advised shots in the final 2 minutes, which gave USM the chance to tie it in the final minute. Thankfully, Gee was able to get to the line and make the free throws to put the game away.
Overall, this was a solid win for us. We played much better defense and did a good job of taking care of the basketball. We just need to finish teams like this off when we get the chance. I do feel like we are improving, which is a good sign. We will have to play our best game of the year to get a win in College Station next Wednesday.
As an aside, I had my old court side seats from when I was a student tonight. One of UAPD's finest informed me after the game that they were instructed to "keep an eye on me." While it's good to know that I still have it, and it was fun to sit courtside again, it is somewhat disappointing that those seats were so readily available. I know it's Thanksgiving weekend, but there probably wasn't 1500 people there tonight. This team deserves better, and attendance does make a difference in recruiting, so if you are in the Tuscaloosa area and you get a chance, come out and support this team. RTR!