Familiar opponent provides Alabama with a chance to get back on track

Tyler Waldrep

Alabama coach Avery Johnson remembers the last time he watched Alabama play inside Reed Arena. He watched the Crimson Tide overcome a 14-point halftime deficit to hand his son and his Texas A&M teammates a single point defeat.

“Well I’m going to be shocked if 15,000 people boo me and boo Avery [Johnson] Jr. [on Saturday],” Johnson said. “I would be shocked. No that’s just a joke, I’m sure they’ll boo us.”

The Alabama coach wasn’t able to joke long during Friday’s press conference as the conversation quickly returned to his team’s 5-point loss to Georgia on Thursday night.

Like the game against the Aggies Johnson witnessed a month before he was hired by The University of Alabama in 2015, the Crimson Tide (16-11, 9-6 Southeastern conference) trailed the Bulldogs by double digits at the break. This time Alabama’s rally wasn’t enough.

In fact, the Crimson Tide never led the Bulldogs despite closing the gap to a single point with over nine minutes remaining. After watching film, Johnson said poor shot selection and a lack of ball movement stood out to him as two of the reasons the locker room wasn’t able to celebrate a third consecutive SEC victory for the first time this season.

“We control our own destiny; we haven’t even made it to the SEC Tournament yet,” Johnson said. “The regular season is not over yet. We’re still playing some quality basketball teams. So our season didn’t end last night.”

Johnson’s team still has plenty of things to play for on Saturday (a top three seed in the SEC Tournament remains a possibility), but an NCAA Tournament at-large bid might not be one of them. However, don’t expect Johnson to spend the next two weeks obsessing over the NCAA bubble.

“Well you’d have to ask, who is it, Joe Lunardi, is that kind of the guru?” Johnson asked. “You’d have to ask him [where we are in the NCAA Tournament picture], I’m not sure. I’m just going to focus on Texas A&M right now.”

Alabama has beaten the Aggies (14-13, 6-9 SEC) three consecutive times and leads the overall series 10-4, but Saturday’s contest will be Johnson Jr.’s first time competing against his former team.

“He’s all about the team so he doesn’t want to go to Texas A&M and have some memorable game and we don’t win,” Johnson said. “He’s all about winning.”