Alabama is mired in a three-game losing streak, but Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant isn’t looking for a win. What the Bama coach wants is for the team to do the right things. “If we do the things we need to do,” he said Tuesday afternoon, “the winning will take care of itself.”
After starting the season with six consecutive wins in November and knocking at the door of a national ranking, Alabama now has lost three consecutive December games, the most recent a beatdown at the hands of Virginia Commonwealth. And things don’t look good fo® the Crimson Tide based on Anthony Grant’s comments as Bama prepared to head to Lubbock to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday.
ESPN3 will televise the game, which will be the final non-conference road game of the season for Bama. The Tide returns to Coleman Coliseum Saturday to host Mercer.
Grant acknowledged his Crimson Tide had a difficult time with VCU’s defensive pressure. Among other things, Bama had a season-high 18 turnovers against the Rams. And the bad news for Wednesday?
“Texas Tech plays similar to VCU from a defensive standpoint,” Grant said. “They are going to press a lot. I think they are forcing 19 turnovers a game. They play very fast offensively, meaning after a missed shot or made basket, they are going to get the ball down the court fast. We have to be able to be able to take care of the basketball and execute offensively. We also have to get back defensively to prevent them from scoring in transition. It’s a similar prep to what we just faced.”
In the three losses leading up to this game, Bama averaged 14 turnovers per game.
Grant also pointed out that even when Alabama did manage to get good shots against VCU, “We did not do a good job converting.”
One problem with Alabama has been that the Tide has gotten off to poor starts in games, falling behind by double digits and having to fight back. Against VCU Bama went over 10 minutes to start the game without making a field goal.
Grant said, “We have to do a better job in that aspect. There are a lot of things as a basketball team that we need to improve on. The challenging non-conference schedule that we are playing gives us a chance to figure out some areas we need to get better in and what we need to do differently. This game will be another challenge for us.”
One reason for the slow starts is that Bama’s half court offense “hasn’t been very good,” Grant said. “I think there are some things we need to do differently. We need to play better, both individually and collectively. There are times when we do a good job and there are times when we really struggle.”
Bama is down to a roster of only eight scholarshipped players with recent injuries to center Carl Engstron and forward Andrew Steele. Grant acknowledged that fatigue was a factor in the loss at VCU.
The Tide coach also said that things that did not seem so bad when Bama was able to win basketball games now are more obvious. “I tell the guys that basketball is a game of habits,” Grant said. “When we won six in a row, there are some things winning brings in terms of a confidence level, but there are also some things that get put under the shadows a little bit – areas that we need to improve. If you don’t get better in those areas, then you will eventually get exposed. Now we lose three in a row, and those things now get heightened. I tell our guys it’s all about getting better. We are nine games into the season. We have a lot of basketball left to be played and we have to get better as a team in a lot of different ways and that’s what we’ve tried to do.”
Alabama continues to be led by a trio of guards in junior Trevor Releford and sophomores Rodney Cooper and Trevor Lacey. Releford tops the team in points (15.9 points per game) and steals (17). He is also one of the top three-point shooters (44.8 per cent) and free throw shooters (89.5 per cent) in the Southeastern Conference.
Cooper is second on the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game, and also leads the team with 4.7 rebounds a contest. Meanwhile, Lacey contributes 13.4 ppg and tops the team in assists per game (3.8) and threes made (19). His 45.2 per cent shooting from beyond the arc leads Alabama and ranks second in the SEC.
Texas Tech (5-2) comes into the contest having dropped two of its last three games, most recently falling at home to McNeese State, 80-75, on Sunday. Wednesday’s match-up will mark the eighth consecutive home game for the Red Raiders this season.
Junior forward Jaye Crocket leads a trio of Texas Tech players who average in double-figures, pouring in 15.6 points per game. Crocket also leads the team in rebounds per game (8.6), field goal percentage (64.1) and free throw percentage (79.3).
Freshman guard Josh Gray (11.9 ppg) and junior forward Dejan Kravic (11.3 ppg) also average double-digits for Texas Tech. Gray tops the squad in assists (2.9) and steals (3.0) per game, while Kravic is the Red Raiders’ top shot-blocker with 11 swats this season.
Texas Tech is ranked fourth in the country in steals, averaging 11.6 takeaways a contest. The Red Raiders also rank 19th nationally in points per game (80.3) and are 23rd in turnover margin (plus 4.4).
Alabama and Texas Tech will play for the seventh time in series history, with the Crimson Tide owning a 5-1 advantage in games played between the two teams.
Wednesday night’s contest marks the first time the Tide and Red Raiders have squared off in nearly 30 years. The last meeting between the two schools on the hardwood came on Dec. 18, 1983 in a tournament which was played in Osaka, Japan.