Stuart McNair

‘Men Only’ for Alabama in second half of SEC basketball season

Alabama basketball will be at No. 19 South Carolina Tuesday

Last week, Georgia had a murderous Southeastern Conference basketball schedule, playing at Kentucky, followed by a trip to South Carolina. The Bulldogs came away with the expected 0-2 record in playing road games against No. 6 Kentucky and No. 19 South Carolina, but Georgia didn’t go easily. The Bulldogs led Kentucky much of the way, only to lose in overtime, and fell by only two points against the Gamecocks.
This is notable to Alabama this week because the Crimson Tide faces South Carolina in Columbia Tuesday and then hosts Kentucky Saturday. Additionally, the Crimson Tide defeated Georgia in Athens by 20 points just two weeks ago. So, can Bama take heart?
Probably not in this scenario. As Alabama Coach Avery Johnson pointed out Monday, “This is a tough league.” He pointed out Arkansas thrashing Alabama last week, and then losing at Missouri — the Tigers first SEC win of the season — a few days later. “I would put Florida, Kentucky, and South Carolina up against any team in the nation,” Johnson added.
“If we play the right way,” Johnson said, “we have a chance to be successful.”
South Carolina is on a four-game winning streak and has improved its SEC record to 9-1, first in the league, a game ahead of Kentucky and Florida.
Alabama and South Carolina will meet at 6:30 p.m. EST (5:30 central time) Tuesday in Columbia. SEC Network will televise the game.
While the Gamecocks are 19-4 and ranked 19th in the nation, Alabama is on a two-game losing streak and is 13-9 overall, 6-4 in SEC games.
Johnson pointed out that the second half of the 18-game SEC season has begun and “it’s for men only. No boys allowed.”
Alabama didn’t start the second half of the season well, losing at home to Auburn, 82-77, Saturday. The only positive from the game was that Bama trailed by 14 points with 2:24 to play and ran off 10 straight points to pull within four with a minute to go. When Johnson began film study of the game with his team, he started it with the furious Bama comeback try.
“The bigger question, though,” he said, “is why were we so far behind? It’s great to come back, but why not have that energy the entire game?”
He called his team one that has been “hot and cold, in games and game-to-game.”
“I’d like to have the energy and pace we had in the last few minutes of the last game” for 40 minutes,” he said. ”We need to play a 40-minute game; 16 minutes or 24 minutes is not enough.”
Johnson pointed to South Carolina as a team that is “well-coached, plays hard, and has good defense.”
The Gamecocks have a leading contender for SEC Player of the Year in Sindarius Thornwell, who is averaging 19.1 points per game in conference play. Thornwell was suspended for four games early in the season and Johnson pointed out the Gamecocks play much better with him in the lineup. South Carolina also gets good production from P.J. Dozier (14.1 pig), Duane Notice (10.5), and Chris Silva (9.6).
Johnson said, “We have to respond better to pressure. The coaches have to coach better and we have to play better.”
The last time Alabama defeated a ranked team on the road was almost 13 years ago, Feb. 21, 2004, beating No. 4 Mississippi State in Starkville. Johnson, now in his second year at Alabama has faced nine ranked teams and has a 4-5 record in those contests.
Although Bama leads the all-time series against South Carolina, 26-16, the Gamecocks have won three of the last five, and the Tide has lost four straight and seven of the last eight in Columbia.

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