We were short handed with Andrew Steele sitting out with a groin injury and Trevor Releford on the bench with a stomach bug. Thus, we started a somewhat unorthodox lineup with Retin running point, Lacey, Levi, Pollard, and Engrstram. This group has not played a lot together, and it showed as the Tide got off to a sloppy start against a horrible Lamar team. Ten minutes into the game, Lamar actually had the lead on us, thanks to the Cardinals making some improbable shots and Tide giving them a number of unforced turnovers.
After the initial slow start, Retin settled down and played a very solid game. He knocked down a couple of 3's, played great on ball defense, and most importantly took care of the basketball. We were able to take a 9 point lead into halftime.
Alabama dominated the second half, setting the tone early by playing smothering defense and forcing turnovers in the full court press, and getting stops in the half court zone, including a couple of shot clock violations. Rodney Cooper came in off the bench and provided a spark offensively. He doesn't have the smoothest or flashiest game, but he finds a way to get it done. Despite chucking up 7 bricks from the 3 point range, he still managed to finish with 17 points.
Pat Knight is a pathetic joke, and if it were not for his last name he would be lucky to have a job coaching middle school basketball. He clearly wants to be his dad, or maybe he just got all of his bad genes and none of his good coaching ones. Bob Knight was an old school disciplinarian, who's teams were very solid fundamentally. They knew how to set screens, move without the ball, play defense with their feet, and basically wear you down over the course of a game. He also had a ridiculous temper, which is well documented. Pat Knight inherited his temper, and his disdain for wearing suits, but not much of his basketball knowledge.
Early in the second half, Pat Knight picked up two technical fouls and was ejected after arguing a no-call on Carl Engstrom. In fairness, Carl fouled the guy, but Lamar recovered the ball and scored anyway, and given their lack of ability to shoot free throws or do anything else basketball related in a remotely competent fashion, that was not the time to pick that battle. He came WAY out of the coach's box while we were bringing the ball up the court, screaming at the official on the opposite side of the court, to earn his first T. At that point, as the official was trying to report the foul to the scorer's table, Pat literally came charging, in nearly a full sprint toward him. One of his assistants stepped in front of him to try to restrain him, so Knight shoved the assistant in the chest and got into his face. Other assistants stepped in to help diffuse the situation. If this game would have been on TV or on a bigger stage, his shoving an assistant coach would likely be national news today.
All of this might be somewhat excusable if his teams exhibited any of the traits I mentioned about his father's Indiana teams above. They do not. Last year, he openly called out his senior class in a press conference for their "attitude problems." To their credit, they went on a run and squeaked into the NCAA play-in game, and now all those guys are gone and they suck. If their attitudes were that bad at that point in the season, I blame the coaching staff for allowing them to continue to play. Things like those types of press conferences may work once in a blue moon in the short term, but now we are seeing the long term effects. That Lamar team was one of the worst fundamental teams I have ever seen. Their guards can't handle the ball and they dribble with their heads down. They make lazy passes. They completely lose their man on defense and make bad decisions. I will be shocked if that clown is still coaching Division 1 basketball in three years.
Anyway, those technicals should have been the time to put the game away. Instead, Trevor Lacey missed 3 of the 4 free throws. I was a little disappointed in Lacey this game. With Releford out, I thought it would be a chance for him to pick up and carry the slack, especially when playing the point. There were a couple of loose ball situations early in the game where I thought Lacey should have got on the floor to get after. He finished with only 7 points and 2 of 6 from the line. The team was 10 of 18 from the line and only 5 of 20 from 3 point range. We must improve in those two areas if we are going to win any big games.
With the injuries and the hapless opponent, everybody was able to get some playing time. Keon Blackledge and Dakota Slaughter got about 10 minutes each, with Dakota coming off the bench in the first half and contributing nicely with 10 points.
Pollard continues to improve and had a really good game defensively with some blocked shots and forcing a couple of turnovers. There was one play in particular that sums up where Devonta is right now that sticks out in my mind. Lamar had a guy catch a pass on the low block, seemingly open, and hesitated for just the slightest half second before going up with the ball. Pollard recognized it, left his man and came from the other side of the lane to block the shot, getting to it before it hit the backboard avoiding the goal tending call. It was remarkable how quickly he reacted and was physically able to get off the floor. However, after the block, he stood where he was and watched the ball instead of where it was going, so he did not anticipate that Lamar would recover it, and when they did, his original man was open for the layup. Offensively, I think he's getting better at slashing to the basket and getting some second chance points, but he still makes me nervous when he has the ball and is guarded in traffic.
It was not a great crowd, probably about 5,000 or so, which I suppose is to be expected for a midweek game against this type of opponent. Again, I wish they would go back to making the announcements inviting the fans in the nosebleeds to move down into unused seats at the first media timeout. There are more fans sitting above the portals than near the court these days. Up next, we travel to Cincinnati for a 2pm CST tipoff against the BearCats Saturday. I had considered making the trip, but I got hooked up with the SEC Championship football tickets so I will be in Atlanta and watching on ESPN2. We will have to play our best game of the season thus far if we expect to return home undefeated.