No pictures for this recap, my gf did not go to the game and I am too lazy to take them myself, so you will just have to use your imagination. I had pretty good seats, about 15 rows up behind the UA bench, even with the free throw line extended.
I was concerned to find out before the game that Green would not play due to a shoulder injury. Suddenly, our size advantage was gone. As it turned out, the Cowboys did not have anybody who could take advantage of his absence. By inserting Lacey into the starting lineup, we were fairly even with them as far as size goes, but were much quicker and more athletic.
Also, sometimes losing a star player can actually help a team in the short term. It forces the other players to come together with more focus and pick up the slack. We may have seen a little of that last night.
Coming into the game, the one area that concerned everybody was our shooting. Oklahoma State has a reputation of being a good shooting team, and we all know about the problems we have had. Predictably, OK State dared us to shoot the 3, and we burned them for 6 of 9 in the first half. Meanwhile, our tough defense held them to only 3 of 15 for the game.
Hopefully this will give the freshmen some confidence in their shots. I've been saying for a while now that Lacey will eventually come around, and maybe this will be his turning point. He was 2 of 3 from downtown, and he has a great looking shot. I'm not convinced that he should not be in the regular starting lineup. Cooper made a miraculous shot as the shot clock was winding down. Even though it was admittedly mostly luck, sometimes seeing the ball go through the hoop can get ones confidence back on track.
The outside shooting opened up things on the inside for Tony Mitchell and Nick Jacobs, who continues to improve as an offensive post player.
While all the buzz is about the unusually good shooting, the defensive effort is what won this game. The Cowboys could not get anything going early in the game. Bama's pressure created a lot of turnovers and open floor opportunities which led to baskets. We were able to play more of an up tempo game with the smaller lineup which prevented us from getting bogged down in the half court.
Releford probably had his best game of the season, which was a relief after reports that his knee was bothering him after the K-State game. It helped that OK State did not have any guards quick enough to stay with him, and they lacked the trees in the post to prevent him from finishing around the basket. Also, we moved Lacey to the one and Releford for the 2 from time to time to keep him fresh, which I thought was a good move.
I thought our substitutions patterns were somewhat better. There were still a couple of times where we had Eblen in at the 2 with Releford, but that did not last long. Engstrom played 8 minutes, but that was understandable with Green's absence. Watching Engstrom battle in the post with the big goofy center from Oklahoma State was rather entertaining.
At one point in the 2nd half OK State managed to cut the lead to 9 before we were able to stretch it back out. As Alias noted, most of the damage was done with an unconventional lineup on the floor for us. The shooting was not nearly as good in the 2nd half, we were only 1 for 6 from the 3 point range after the quick start. We were able to answer their run by creating turnovers and easy baskets in the full court press.
There was a decent sized crowd on hand, I would say close to 11,000 or so. It was nice to see the Tide roll in my hometown, but we still need to do something about that arena. While they have improved the looks of the place since our last game there a few years back, it still leaves a lot to be desired. It was completely impossible to get food/drink from a concession stand within 20 minutes of tipoff or at halftime. The video replay screen on the scoreboard looks like it was installed shortly after the color television was invented.
While there was a decent sized crowd, I was very disappointed with the enthusiasm. It was not a very loud or intimidating atmosphere at all. The Jefferson County Alumni Association did their part handing out shakers in local bars before the game and in the seats at the arena, but the fans sat on their hands for most of the game. After going to the K-State game in Kansas City, it was quite the contrast. In fairness, they served alcohol in Kansas City whereas they didn't in Birmingham, which may account for some of the difference, but not all.
I am still not sure if this will count as a neutral court win or a home win on our resume, and the same goes for the K-State loss. In years past, when we played K-State in Mobile and Georgetown in Birmingham, it had more of a true neutral site feel in that we did not bring our own announcers, intro video, and tickets were not included with season tickets. This year, both neutral site games have been the same presentation as the closest school's home games, we had Tony Giles doing the PA last night and all the same routines we use in Tuscaloosa.
Finally, it was great to see our fearless leader Bobbyjack along with Rocky Mountain Tider last night. I hope they had a good time in the 'ham, and I look forward to watching the Ga Tech game with Bobbyjack in his hometown of ATL in a couple of weeks.
Up next, the Jacksonville Dolphins come to Tuscaloosa Thursday, December 29, for an 8pm tipoff. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all Tide hoops fans!