Playing without two starters before a sparse holiday season crowd, Avery Johnson's Alabama basketball team still whipped visiting Winthrop Wednesday night, 72-60 in a game that was not as close as the score showed. Already without point guard Dazon Ingram for the season with a broken foot, junior forward Shannon Hale sat out Wednesday with a "medical condition" that Johnson is not ready to elaborate on .
Back to the game: The Tide (7-2) was led by sophomore point guard Justin Coleman, who scored 18 pointsand dealt five assists. Meanwhile, junior center Jimmie Taylor notched a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. They were joined in double figures by Retin Obasohan with 12 points and Arthur Edwards, who added 11 with six rebounds.
Winthrop was led by the 25 points of 5-7 junior guard Keon Johnson.
"Terrific team effort from our guys tonight. We came out in t esecond half and played great defense....and finally got our offense in gear. Jimmie was aggressive from start to finish," said Avery Johnson. "Justin (Coleman) had his best game of the year. Proud of Justin. This is just what we envisioned for him. He is our guy. There's nobody else right now (in Ingram's absence).
"We came in strategically tyring to attack them in a certain ways. I'm glad we got our offense in gear the second half. We got some separation."
Taylor said, "I tried to set great screens, and setting great screens will get me open. M teammates found me. We all need to step up, and that's what we did in the second half."
Bama outscored the visitors 40-33 in the final 20 minutes.
Coleman added, “Coach Johnson is big on bringing energy to the team. I had to play a big role in that. I put in a lot of hard work. If (his shot) is falling, it’s falling, and if it’s not it’s not. Today was just my day. I was just being aggressive. Coach Johnson just told me to stay confident. He is terrific at game plans. We just executed it.
“(Coleman) is like a microwave. He can heat up quick,” said Eagles Coach Pat Kelsey.
After a first half that featured seven ties and six lead changes, Alabama led the Eagles, 32-27.
The second stanza saw the Tide extend that lead to as many as 23 points at the 10:01 mark on a Coleman 3-pointer, one of three triples the sophomore had on the night in five attempts.
Bama went on a 26-4 run from the final few minutes of the first half through the first six minutes of the second. The Eagles (6-3) were able to cut the margin down to the final 12 points with 24 seconds left after Alabama had emptied its bench.
“They were scoring the ball at will at the rim,” said Kelsey of Bama’s run.
Taylor led the charge by going 5-for-6 from the floor. Apparently, a trip to the “movies” helped. Johnson explained: “Our Associate Head Coach Bob Simon spent a lot of time in film session with Jimmie reviewing some stuff. I told Bob to look at his footwork, and Bob spent time in the video room reviewing with Jimmie today. Let’s give Bob and Jimmie some credit.”
Bama out-rebounded the Eagles 40-30 in winning its fifth straight game. Johnson said Nick Saban played somewhat of a role in that area. “I met with the best coach on campus yesterday and I promised I wouldn’t give away any secrets. Part of it is, ‘Can you beat your man?’ We have certain drills we work on. Part of it is they have to want to win that battle to get that rebound.”
Next up for the Tide: a Monday night game at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center against No. 28 Oregon (both polls). While Alabama is not ranked, the Tide was listed at No. 24 in Wednesday’s pre-game RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). The Tide and Ducks will tip off at 8 p.m. CST with ESPNU to televise the contest.
As to Hale’s availability for that game, Johnson is not counting on it. “Potentially, but probably not,” he said. “We’ll just take it day by day with Shannon, and we’ll see where it goes from there. We knew we weren’t going to have him today. We’ll elaborate on it a little bit more (later), but today it’s just ‘medical reasons.’ Trust me. At the right time, we’ll give you more information.”