Alabama basketball carries momentum into clash with Texas A&M

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

After a crushing loss to Georgia State on December 4, a game in which Alabama watched a 22-point lead evaporate, the Crimson Tide has put together an impressive stretch.

Since that loss, Alabama has won five of its last six games, including one of the biggest wins of coach Avery Johnson’s coaching tenure: a thrilling home victory over No. 18 Kentucky.

Now, despite a double-digit loss to LSU on Tuesday, Alabama (10-4, 1-1 SEC) is wading into conference play with some momentum.

There are several factors that have contributed to the Crimson Tide’s recent success, but the play of forward Tevin Mack is one of the most recognizable.

After transferring from Texas and sitting out last season, Mack struggled to make an impact at the beginning of the year. But as he’s settled into Alabama’s offense, Mack has become one of the most important players on the court. He played a critical role in the Crimson Tide’s upset win over Kentucky, knocking down six three-pointers en route to scoring a season-high 22 points.

“We like him [Mack] on the floor,” Johnson said. “He’s getting better and better. His body has gotten stronger. He worked awfully hard in our redshirt program, got off to a slow start this year when he wasn’t starting and now that he’s starting we need his production, but it’s on both ends of the floor.”

Alabama’s next conference test will come this afternoon in Coleman Coliseum against a struggling Texas A&M (6-7, 0-2 SEC).

The Aggies won two games in the NCAA tournament last season, but lost several key players to the NBA Draft and graduation. However, Texas A&M does return two players that Johnson is wary off in point guard T.J. Starks and big man Savion Flagg.

“We know what Flagg can do, we know what Starks can do, and we’ve got to be on edge,” Johnson said.

When Alabama takes on the Aggies, it will be in a gym that will once again be energized by the University of Alabama’s students, who returned to classes on Wednesday.

“Now we have a game where the students are back and this game is huge,” Johnson said. “It’s the second SEC game at home. The players fed off the crowd and I think that was a huge part of our success [against Kentucky].”