Alabama still ahead of schedule but with room to improve


CW/ Hannah Saad

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Coach Avery Johnson likes to break Alabama’s season down into mini-seasons, each comprised of five games. He believes that the more mentally-manageable chunks help break up the grind of a long season filled with stiff SEC and non-conference competition. With only 10 regular-season games left on the Crimson Tide’s schedule, there are just two mini-seasons left before the SEC tournament.

After enduring a challenging slate of games in recent weeks, Alabama’s next mini-season is far less daunting. Three of the Crimson Tide’s next five opponents (Georgia, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M) have losing records. The other two (Mississippi State, Florida) have experienced the rigors of an SEC schedule as well, and are a combined 8-9 in the conference.

“I’m not saying in the next five games we have to have a certain record, or in the second season we have to have a certain record,” Johnson said. “I just want to see us become more efficient assist to turnover ratio. I want to see us win the rebound game. I want to see us take quality three point shots and make them.”

In other words, Johnson wants to see his team improve in numerous areas over the course of the next few games. That starts when the Crimson Tide (13-8, 4-4 SEC) hosts Georgia (10-11, 1-7 SEC) on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. CT in Coleman Coliseum.

Taking care of the ball is atop Johnson’s list of needed improvements, and for good reason. Alabama tied its season high in turnovers, losing possession of the ball 21 times in its 84-63 loss to Auburn on Saturday, which was its largest margin of defeat this season.

“We weren’t very good on either end of the floor [against Auburn], but our lack of offensive execution – poor ball handling, spacing, ball movement, decision making – really stressed our defense,” Johnson said.

The Bulldogs are also among the conference’s worst at taking care of the ball. Georgia is dead last in the SEC in turnover margin, turning the ball over six more times than its opponents on average. Alabama ranks 11th in the same category, but only turns the ball over 1.5 times more than its opponents.

Even though Alabama’s Donta Hall is second in the SEC in rebounding, averaging 8.9 boards per game, the Crimson Tide’s efforts on the boards has dipped in over the last few games. In its loss at Auburn, Alabama rebounded it only 29 times, a season low.

“Rebounding, that’s more of on me than it is the team,” Hall said. “I take all the blame and responsibility for that.”

Despite inconsistencies in ball control and rebounding, Hall is confident that this year’s Alabama team is ahead of last year’s at this point in the season.

“We’re still ahead from last year to be honest with you,” Hall said. “Just the way we’ve been playing, the momentum has been up and down, but I feel like we’re in a pretty good position from last year – a better position from last year.”