Avery Johnson Era Opens With Victory

The Avery Johnson era of Alabama basketball is underway officially, and featured a win with mixed results. Johnson’s Tide downed the Owls of Kennesaw State, 77-64 before an announced crowd of 14,970.

Retin Obasohan led Alabama with 18 points, and freshman Dazon Ingram added 16 while Shannon Hale chipped in 13. Jimmie Taylor led the Tide with 10 boards.

Johnson said, “We’re extremely excited about this victory for us tonight. I’m really proud of our team. They competed. Games are really cyclical. There are highs and lows. I’m proud of how our guys responded.

“I really want to thank our fans. The student section was rocking tonight. If we can continue to build on that, we can start to have a home court advantage.”

Bama raced out to a 15-3 lead at the 13-minute mark and never looked back, though there were plenty of teachable moments, like when KSU cut the margin down to seven points with 6:46 left.

Said Johnson: “I’m not discouraged about anything, but we had a couple of turnovers. We don’t spend a lot of time yelling at our guys in practice. We had quite a few of those (teachable moments). Our guys recognized the mistakes they made. That’s what I like.

“I have to be the anchor for our guys, and have them prepared.”

Strategy wise, Johnson noted, ““(Kennesaw) decided to go to a matchup zone, then go man on our second pass. We decided to run our man offensive plays (late), and we think we put them in a bind. I thought we finished the game pretty good. Our guys saw some openings, made the right pass, and did what they needed to.”

Johnson said his lineup is beginning to take shape. “We’ve been searching all training camp for the right combination,” he said, then zeroing in on the backcourt. “With (Ingram) and Retin in the game together, we can do some things with our defense. When you’re 6-6, 215 pounds (like Ingram), you can do a lot of things with him offensively. You can post him up, pick and roll, and he’s a terrific offensive rebounder. With him quarterbacking the team, he did an unbelievable job tonight getting us in our sets. He had a pretty clear picture of what we were trying to do offensively. “

Ingram said, “At first, I had a little nerves, but as the game went on, it started to go away.”

Obasohan said, “I’m proud of (Ingram). Dazon is really talented, and has tremendous potential. What you guys saw tonight was just a glimpse.” In addition the 16 points, Ingram had six boards, four assists and two steals.

Ingram also impressed the opposition Friday. “He’s got good size, and he’s got pretty good control of the basketball,” said Owls Coach Al Skinner. “Anytime you have a big guard like that, there’s a lot you can do with him. He fits well in their style of play.”

Added Owls guard Yonel Brown: “(Ingram’s) a big guard, and very strong. You don’t really see too many guards like that on a night-in and night-out basis. He did cause me to do things I normally wouldn’t do on a regular night. He’s a good player, and he’ll be good for Alabama.”

Bama again struggled at the foul line, and missed 12 of its 27 attempts. “We’re not going to over-hype it,” said Johnson. “Our guys can make free throws. We’ve seen them make them in practice. Their confidence is still high. I expect us to shoot the 3 better and shoot free throws better. It’s no big deal. First game.” (Bama connected on but 4-of-17 behind the arc.)

Kennesaw won the rebounding war 39-38. Alabama only won the second half scoreboard, 34-32. The Crimson Tide travels to Dayton Tuesday for a noon CST game on ESPN as part of the network’s College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

NOTES: Johnson started guards Ingram and Obasohan to go with forwards Hale and Arthur Edwards. Taylor opened in the pivot… Former Bama men’s Coach Wimp Sanderson and women’s Coach Rick Moody were on hand, with the latter calling both games of the men’s/women’s doubleheader for The SEC Network Plus… The first points of the Johnson era were scored by Hale at the 18:10 mark of the first half when the junior hit a pair of free throws… The first field goal came at the 16:45 mark on a driving “and one” by Obasohan, though he missed the free throw… Johnson played nine men in the first seven minutes, and a tenth (freshman Brandon Austin) entered with 9:44 left in the half… Former Auburn player Bernard Morena scored six points for the Owls… Several people reported seeing former Miami quarterback Gino Torretta at the game. No word if he was in town to speak with his old teammate Mario Cristobal, about a certain job opening… Despite missing nine of 13 free throw attempts in the first half, Bama led 43-22 at intermission. .. KSU Coach Skinner played college ball at Massachusetts with “Dr. J” -- Julius Erving.

Video provided by A.P. Steadham

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