Alabama led from the start in yesterday’s opening round victory over the Gamecocks. The Tide dominated most of the game, but allowed South Carolina to come back late before putting them away in the waning seconds.
The Crimson Tide put together a very impressive first half, but seemed to lose something midway through the second half. South Carolina outscored Alabama 31-26 in the second half, but their late run wasn’t enough. The Crimson Tide defeated the Gamecocks 63-57 to advance to the second round of the SEC Tournament. Alabama will face Florida Friday afternoon in the second round.
Trevor Lacey led all scorers with 15 points coming off the bench. Bench scoring has been key for the Tide and Lacey provided the spark Alabama needed on the offensive side of the ball. Lacey was 4 of 5 from the field and 6 of 6 on free throw attempts. Lacey finished with Alabama’s only three-pointer on his only attempt. He fired up a long shot from outside to ice the game for the Tide. Alabama had to have that shot, and Lacey came through in the clutch.
JaMychal Green led all starters for the Tide with 12 points. Green dominated on the low block, controlling the boards and the defensive side of the ball. Green added seven rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes on the floor. Nick Jacobs added 10 points and two rebounds. Trevor Releford and Levi Randolph finished with nine points each and Randolph continued his production in the rebounding game. Levi finished with four rebounds from his guard position.
South Carolina’s guards led their offensive attack, especially in the closing minutes. Bruce Ellington finished with 11 points, six assists, and two rebounds. His backup, Brenton Williams, added 13 points and two assists. Bruce Ellington was forced to sit due to foul trouble for much of the second half, and Brenton Williams stepped up in his absence.
Alabama vs. Florida
The Gators and Tide met on February 14 in Tuscaloosa, but the Tide was without JaMychal Green due to suspension. Tension will be high in New Orleans as both teams are looking to help out their NCAA Tournament resumes.
Alabama’s strong defensive attack caused problems for South Carolina’s offense, especially in the first half. The Crimson Tide worked a variation of the full-court press, 2-3 zone and double teams to create a tough matchup for South Carolina’s speedy guards. The Tide’s constant pressure resulted in turnovers by the Gamecocks. Alabama has to make use of giveaways by the other team. The Tide needs to use turnovers to get into their transition offense and make a quick score. In transition, Alabama has to control the ball. It’s hard to take advantage of turnovers when you give the ball back immediately after, as the Tide did several times against the Gamecocks.
In their last matchup, Florida had a very balanced scoring attack. Three Gators finished with 14 points or more, including a game-high 19 points by Patric Young. Alabama has to contain Young and Erik Murphy down low, but that’s not all. Florida has some great guards that will beat you if you give them the opportunity. The 2-3 zone look from Anthony Grant will be key on Friday afternoon.
JaMychal Green and Nick Jacobs have their work cut out for them. Green and Jacobs have to get it going down low early. Controlling the rebounding game will be critical if the Tide is going to pick up a win. Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye may see more playing time compared to Thursday, due to Florida’s size down low.
With the focus down low on defense, Alabama’s guards will have to close out on Florida’s long shot attempts. The Gators have had their fair share of shooting issues, but their guards can knock down deep three-pointers if they are hot. The Tide did a pretty good job against South Carolina’s shooters, but Florida brings a whole new set of challenges.
Finally, the Tide can’t force shots. Alabama did an excellent job against South Carolina of limiting their forced three-pointers. The Tide finished 1-5 (20%) from behind the arc, but that’s what we want to see. It is much more costly for Alabama to fire up 10 or 15 three-pointers and pass up open looks down low. Transition and early shot clock three-point attempts should never happen for Alabama. Misses drastically cut your offensive time of possession and give the other team a chance for an easy rebound. Florida would love for Alabama to take some quick threes; it would make their job a lot easier on the defensive side of the ball.
Patric Young vs. JaMychal Green. It should be fun to watch these two big men fight in the paint. Both players will look to set the tone on defense, but without getting into foul trouble.
In their last meeting, Young went off in Tuscaloosa. The sophomore forward scored 19 points in Green’s absence for the Tide. Young was relatively quiet on the boards only grabbing three rebounds, with two coming on offense.
I believe JaMychal Green has to produce on both sides of the ball for Alabama to get a victory in New Orleans. He can do it, but will he be able to against two strong forwards? Alabama’s offensive attack runs through him. The Tide’s other scorers like Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, and Trevor Releford all look to him to free up passing lanes. If JaMychal has a great game, Alabama’s young guards will benefit in a big way.
Green has to step up and lead this team. The only senior on Alabama’s roster is one of the only players that has NCAA Tournament experience. Green knows what has to be done to make a run in March, and has to step up and lead Alabama to victory. His performance will dictate how the rest of the team plays. When Green has a good game, his teammates respond. As a leader, he has to keep one eye on the action and one eye on Coach Grant at all times. This isn’t the time to call your own shots; listen to Coach Grant and play to the game plan.
March 9, 2012 – 2:30pm CST
New Orleans Arena (New Orleans, Louisiana)
SEC Network, streaming on ESPN3