Stuart McNair

Alabama on road at Georgia trying to rebound from big loss

Alabama game at Georgia also begins Coaches Vs. Cancer campaign

As every football fan knows, it’s bad when a team suffers and interception; and it’s worse when that interception is returned for a touchdown.

Alabama Basketball Coach Avery Johnson saw that over and over again last Saturday as a close game at Auburn turned into a 20-point loss for his Crimson Tide.

“We turned the ball over on interceptions,” Johnson said Tuesday. “No,” he corrected himself. “Pick sixes. We turned the ball over and they went down and scored.” And, he repeated the scenario.

“We didn’t get our defense set.”

Johnson recognizes the effect the loss to the in-state rival has. “It’s like we haven’t won a game in the SEC,” he said. ‘It’s like we’re o-6.”

Now, he said, “We go back to work.”

That work begins with another conference road game.

Alabama (11-7 overall and 4-2 in Southeastern Conference play) and Georgia (12-7 and 4-3) will play at 9 p.m. EST (8 p.m. central) time Wednesday at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Both teams are coming off road losses, Bama having fallen at Auburn by 84-64 in a game that was essentially even for 30 minutes, Georgia losing in a controversial finish at Texas A&M, 63-62.

The rebound for Alabama won’t be easy. Although the team records are close, Georgia’s losses include close games to two of the league’s best teams, South Carolina and Florida, in addition to a loss at A&M when a clock malfunction deprived the Bulldogs of a chance for a possible win.

Georgia has one of the league’s top players in 6-8, 240-pound forward Yante Maten, who is averaging 19.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Johnson said Maten has improved his game this year by developing an outside shot (he is 16-34 on three-point shots).

The Bulldogs also have an outstanding guard in 5-10 J.J. Frazier, averaging 16.2 points per game.

Meanwhile, Alabama has only one player averaging in double figures, freshman Braxton Key at 10.7 points per game. Redshirt freshman guard Dazon Ingram is next best at 9.6.

“We are who we are,” Johnson said. “We don’t have a 20-point scorer.

“We think Dazon is a guy who can give us 15 points a game. Braxton can give us 15 points a game. We have to help them to continue to imp;rove.

“But we’re still growing. Those guys are freshmen.

“We don’t have Retin Obasohan this year.” Last year as a senior Obasohan averaged 17.6 points per game, fifth best in the SEC.

In addition to the importance of the game at Georgia, Johnson has initiated an opportunity for Alabama fans to participate in the annual Coaches Vs. Cancer Three-Point Challenge in support of cancer research through the American Cancer Society.

“Both of my parents died of cancer, so this hits close to home,” Johnson said.

Fans have the opportunity to pledge an amount for every three-point shot made by Alabama players from Wednesdayuntil the final Crimson Tide game on March 4 at Tennessee.

To participate, go to pledgeit.org/cvc-alabama

“Maybe our guys will be more fired up about making threes,” Johnson said. “Have better shot selection.

“But more important if we can make someone else’s life better.”

In Bama’s first 18 games, Tide players have made 123 three-point shots, just under 7 per game.

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Alabama and Georgia have not met twice in regular season play since 2013, but will play a second game this season, meeting in Tuscaloosa on Feb. 23.


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