It’s official: Year Two of the Avery Johnson era of Alabama basketball is underway. Fresh off a national No. 2 signing class for next year, this year’s Crimson Tide team opened its 2016-17 season with a 70-53 win over Coastal Carolina in Coleman Coliseum. A paid crowd of 14,579 saw it, and they saw Bama outscore the visitors 43-20 in the final 20 minutes.
“It was kind of a tale of two halves,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.
“We watched more video clips than we normally watch at half time, and just made some corrections. The effort was decent; we were just out of position a lot. We thought if we changed some things up at halftime it would help, and it did.”
Added former Auburn and current Coastal Carolina Coach Cliff Ellis: “Their length is just phenomenal, and it really bothered us. Their defense just wore us down. Give a lot of credit to Alabama’s defense. I see them winning a good bit of games.
“I commended Avery today on the (signees) they’ve got coming in. I can tell you now, they’re great players.”
Alabama had three men in double digits led by Corban Collins with 15. Riley Norris added 14, while Dazon Ingram chipped in 11 while handing out five assists in his first regular season game in nearly a year after missing most of last year with a left foot injury.
“It’s all about confidence. My teammates have confidence in me,” said Ingram. “We were able to knock down some shots in the second half.”
Collins said, “In the second half, we took our time, and knocked down the shots. Once we got into a groove, the things that we worked on just happened. Every opening I got, I tried to take advantage of it. We got that victory, and now we’re just looking forward to watching film and getting better.
“We pounded the ball inside and made plays. We had some mismatches inside.”
The shooting numbers were quite different in the second half. Alabama (1-0) hit 59.1% from the field and 50% on threes (6-12).
Johnson started the same five who opened in the Faulkner exhibition: Ingram, Collins, Norris, Shannon Hale and Jimmie Taylor, who grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots. At the first media timeout nearly seven minutes in, Donta Hall, Ar’Mond Davis and Braxton Key checked in. A minute later, Avery Johnson Jr. and Nick King entered. Johnson Sr. played ten men in the game’s first eight minutes. With just under eight minutes to go in the half, Bola Olaniyan came in to help on the boards, but he quickly picked up three fouls.
A less than stellar first half shooting performance of 31 per cent had the Tide trailing 33-27 at intermission. The Chanticleers shot but 30 per cent in the first 20 minutes, but out-boarded a larger Bama 27-19. Coastal Carolina ran off an 8-0 run midway through the half.
“We were out of rhythm, we didn’t rebound and they made some threes,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of confidence in our guys. Long season, man. Long season. We think we’ve got a lot of depth this year.”
Olaniyan started the second half with a 3-point play in the paint. Ingram then drilled a trey to cut the lead to three, but Olaniyan picked up his fourth foul 1:13 into the half and was replaced by Key. An old-time 3-point play by Taylor cut the lead to one with 17:56 to go. That seemed to stir the crowd, and when Collins found Norris for a bucket with 16:25 left, Bama had its first lead of the second half at 39-38. A 17-2 Tide run had the Tide up 47-38 with 13:30 left in the game.
With 10:14 to go and Bama in the double bonus, Hale made two at the line for a 52-42 advantage.
Coastal Carolina trimmed the margin to 52-48 because Bama went over seven minutes without a field goal, and Olaniyan chased down an offensive rebound leading to a Johnson time out. When play resumed, Collins drained a 3 from the right corner to make it a three possession game.
Ingram and Norris added bombs of their own from deep, and Ellis called time with 3:43 to go and Bama leading 63-51.
The Crimson Tide hosts Dayton Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. CT on ESPN2 as part of ESPN’s Tipoff Marathon.
In the first game of Friday’s double header, Tide junior Meoshonti Knight and sophomore Shaquera Wade combined for 34 points in a 78-57 win over New Orleans on opening night of the Alabama women’s season.
Video by A.P.Steadham