Stuart McNair

Alabama Coach Avery Johnson hopes for fast start at Texas

Both Alabama and Texas are young basketball teams

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this is Avery Johnson’s just second year as a college basketball coach. Johnson and his Alabama basketball team will be in Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns at 8:30 p.m. CST Friday, a game that will be televised on ESPNU. And Johnson knows one thing to expect.
“There is going to be a lot of energy in the building,” Johnson said. He expects Texas to introduce its new head football coach, Tom Hermann, who will receive a raucous welcome.
“I would,” Johnson added.
The atmosphere notwithstanding, “We need to get off to a fast start,” said Johnson.
Texas, under second year Coach Shaka Smart, is on a three-game losing skid and is 3-3 on the year. Bama has won its last two games to improve to 4-2. This, however, will be Alabama’s first true road game.
Much like Alabama, Texas is a young team. Johnson is familiar with many of their players who competed in the Texas AAU circuit when Johnson’s son, Avery, Jr., was playing there. (Avery, Jr., is now a backup point guard for Bama.)
Johnson would like to see the Crimson Tide start the game the way it started its most recent game, a 76-46 win over Charleston Southern. “We started the last game fluid, good ball flow, and the ball went in the basket,” Johnson said. “We didn’t get into foul trouble, we defended, and we penetrated.”
As he often has this year, Johnson said a key would be to protect the basketball, avoiding turnovers. And, he said, “We have to have all five guys on the same page executing the offense. We need to finish layups. We need to rebound. And we need to take quality shots.”
Although no coach has ever seen his team make a turnover that was acceptable, the Tide has not been bad, ranking 25th in the nation in turnover margin at plus 4.8 per game.
Bama has also done the job defensively, giving up an average of 60 points per game, which ranks 21st in the nation.
The Tide has also built depth with its bench averaging 33 points per game, outscoring opposing reserves by 18 ppg.
Alabama is led by freshman Braxton Key (6-8, 227), who has started the last two games. Key leads the Tide in scoring (10.7 ppg) and in three-point shooting (8-13 for 61.5 per cent). Redshirt freshman Dazon Ingram is second in scoring (10 ppg) and leads the team in assists (4.2 per game) and steals (1.3).
This will be the 12th all-time meeting between Texas and Alabama with the Longhorns holding a 7-4 advantage, including 2-0 in Austin. The teams have not played against one another since 1971.
Following the trip to Texas, Bama players will be in final examinations at The University before making a road trip to Oregon Dec. 11.


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