Avery Johnson pleased with Alabama’s exhibition performance


By Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

His team just beat Montevallo 82-40, but the first stat that Alabama coach Avery Johnson examined after the game wasn’t the score. It was the assist to turnover ratio.

After all, the final score was never important, with it being an exhibition against a Division II opponent from just down the road.

The way Alabama’s players performed as a unit, and the growth the team has made since last season, was what Johnson was interested in seeing. Especially after a box score was leaked showing a “secret-scrimmage” loss to Jacksonville State last week.

“We did a lot of good things on offense and defense,” Johnson said. “Quality possessions. We didn’t have as many wasted possessions as we’ve had here recently . . . We did a much better job of taking care of the ball.”

After turning the ball over eight times in the first half, Alabama limited itself to just two in the second. By cutting down on turnovers, the Crimson Tide was able to run its offense more efficiently, accumulating 21 assists. Alabama averaged 14.3 turnovers and just 12.7 assists per game last season.

“Whenever you can take care of the ball, and ball security is critical for us, then we’re going to get shots at the basket,” Johnson said. “And if we don’t make the shots, then hopefully we’ll get our share of offensive rebounds.”

Efficient play led to solid offensive outings from several Crimson Tide players. John Petty led the way with 12 points, followed by Galin Smith and Alex Reese with 11. Freshman Kira Lewis demonstrated why he was seen as one of the top prospects in the country, chipping in 10 points.

Johnson was impressed with Lewis, whose speed fits in with the up-tempo style Johnson desires to run.

“He’s a young guy that has a lot of talent,” Johnson said. “Obviously you saw the speed tonight. He’s as fast as anybody we’ve had here.”

That includes the player who wore the No. 2 jersey last year that Lewis is now sporting: Collin Sexton.

While Sexton is now playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Alabama is bringing back the vast majority of its 2017-18 team. The Crimson Tide return 69 percent of its scoring from a season ago, including sophomores Herb Jones, Reese, Smith and Petty, who have gained a year of experience. Of the four, Reese appeared to have made the most offseason adjustments, having shed 18 pounds and improved his three-pointer.

“My shot has gotten better, my conditioning has gotten better, I lost some weight so I can run a little bit better,” Reese said. “Just stuff like that, simple stuff.”

Reese was 3-of-4 from outside the arch and accrued six rebounds and three assists.

Reese was efficient from outside, but Alabama made just 30 percent of its three point shots. The Crimson Tide shot 48.4 percent overall and 66.7 percent from the charity stripe.

Riley Norris (illness), Daniel Giddens (ankle sprain) and freshman Javian Fleming (strained knee) were dressed in street clothes. None of their injuries seem to be serious.

Alabama will open its regular season against Southern on November 6 in Coleman Coliseum at 7 p.m.