I'm not sure who this knowledgeable fan from Birmingham is that Alias is referring to, but I have also asked been asked to contribute here from time to time. As an avid reader of this blog, I appreciate the good job you guys do, and hopefully I can add something worthwhile from time to time. Now, down to business...
I missed the first 2 minutes of this game thanks to a combination of the 6 pm tip off and Birmingham rush hour traffic. I arrived at my seats to find the Tide up 10-5. Earlier in the day, I spoke to a friend of mine who is a huge Samford fan to get the scouting report, and he warned me that their perimeter game should be our biggest concern. What he failed to mention, is that their perimeter game consists of all 5 position players shooting the 3. I was very impressed with Belmont's coach. He has a great scheme for his talent, and they execute very well.
Early in the game, we did a good job of working the ball down low and allowing Hendrix and Jemison to control the game on the offensive end. Jemison's mobility and mid range shooting ability really opens things up for Hendrix. Unfortunately, Jemison got into some early foul trouble, which allowed the Bruins to double team Hendrix in the post. We need to get more consistent production out of Yamene Coleman, because right now our post play really struggles without Hendrix and Jemison on the court. We knew we could not get into a 3 point shooting contest with them, and we were struggling from the perimeter. This allowed Belmont to build a lead in the first half.
Overall, I felt we had good effort on the defensive end, and the guards actually did a pretty good job of defending the perimeter. The problem was, their power forwards and centers would also step out behind the arc, which really stretched our defense thin. When Jemison, Yamene, and even Hendrix at times have to run out to the arc to contest a shot, we are going to have problems on the defensive end. They tried to run an uptempo game, but with only a couple of exceptions, we did a great job of getting back on the defensive end. I was most disappointed with our defensive rebounding efforts down the stretch. There is no excuse for a much smaller team like Belmont getting so many crucial second chance points late in the game, especially when Richard Hendrix is on the floor. He's the best player we've got and he had another great game, but I wonder if he was tiring late due to the uptempo nature of the game. I can think of 2 or 3 instances where he failed to get a body on a much smaller player who got a crucial offensive rebound at his expense.
It appears to me that we have some communication problems on defense. Belmont's offense uses a lot of screens against the man to man defense. At times we looked confused, especially the younger players, on whether to switch or fight through. There were times when one defender would switch and the other would not, and vice versa. A lot of that is communication, and a lot of it is just chemistry. I expect this to improve over the course of the season.
In my opinion, part of the problem with out apparent chemistry issues at this point is our substitution patterns. There seems to be no rhyme or reason. Hollinger came off the bench ahead of Rico. Despite a couple of turnovers, Hollinger did a pretty decent job. He's obviously working his tail off to continue to earn playing time. However, he is somewhat limited by his physical size. Rico and Torrance also did an acceptable job of running point, but their upside is so much greater. I suspect Coach Gottfried is experimenting with a number of different combinations right now to try to figure out what works best in different situations. As our substitution patterns get more set, I suspect our chemistry AND execution will improve on both ends of the floor.
I was very impressed with the play of Senario Hillman. After the exhibition game against UNA, I knew he was an incredible athlete, but was concerned about his willingness to play with in a team oriented system. Those concerns were obviously unfounded, as he made some great passes tonight and picked up some big time assists to go with his points. He made several big shots to bring us closer in the game before being benched with foul trouble, another key factor in the defeat.
We continue to struggle from the free throw line. We seem to do this every year early in the season, and by the end of conference play we are one of the top 3 free throw shooting teams in the SEC. Let's hope that is the case this time, and we can get this straightened out sooner rather than later.
Despite several disappointing possessions late in the game, this team did not give up. Riley was having a horrible half, he shot one air ball and threw another so hard off the backboard from about 10 feet out that the ball nearly cleared the 3 point line in the air, but he came back and redeemed himself by knocking down some crucial 3's late in the game, including one to tie the score in the final 30 seconds. Give credit to Belmont's player for the game winning shot, Riley played about as good as one could hope for without committing a foul on defense.
Belmont is not a great team, but they are the type of team that can beat anybody on a given night and could lose to anybody on a given night depending on how they are shooting. They WILL get open looks against just about anybody, it's just a question of whether or not they will make enough of them and do enough on defense to win. Tonight, they did, and congrats to them.
We played much better tonight than we did against Troy, in my opinion. This team is still a work in progress, and hopefully we will continue to see improvement. The season is still very young, so let's stay behind these players and coaches.
Up next, Larry Eustachy's Golden Eagles from Southern Miss pay us a visit Friday evening. Unfortunately, we probably will not have any coeds on campus to get him drunk the night before due to the Thanksgiving Holiday. I hope to see a lot of you supporting the Tide and heckling 12 step Larry at Coleman Coliseum Friday evening. RTR!