Bad Streaks

In the midst of the euphoria over Ronald Steele's trick-shot winner over Georgia on Saturday, there remained a batch of troubling thoughts for Alabama basketball.

The Alabama perimeter defense, already exposed as leaky by the likes of Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, took another distressing turn in the first half. Georgia sharpshooters Sundiata Gaines, Levi Stukes and Mike Mercer lit the Crimson Tide up like Roman candles, burning for a 9-of-11 performance beyond the arc.

This comes on the immediate heels of the Vanderbilt game, in which–despite mounds of advance knowledge–Alabama somehow failed to get bodies and hands out to the Commodores' talented snipers, who took turns lobbing three-bombs through the nets. After that game Ronald Steele emphasized the importance of not falling behind by double-figures in the opening stages of a game.

Next time out what does Bama do? Fall 15-0 behind Georgia.

Incredible.

In four Southeastern Conference games, Alabama has allowed runs of 14-0 at Arkansas (from tipoff to the 14:17 mark), 16-0 at Vanderbilt (after Alabama had clawed within nine in the second half) and 15-0 to Georgia.

Needless to say, it's a supreme challenge to win games when you give up streaks like that.

Some of Alabama's defensive problems stem from the physical limitations of the point guard Ron Steele, who sets the tone for the team on both ends of the floor, and part of the defensive issues are interconnected with offensive troubles. Every team on the Tide's schedule should now be very well aware of the appalling transition defense played by this group, and if they aren't, a short stint of video review will provide the information.

There are as many perplexing problems on the offensive end, where the standard plan seems to be: watch Steele dribble around, make a few passes, somebody create something on their own. Even a high-post offense like Mark Gottfried's should be filled with movement, screeners and cutters and give-and-gos and pick and rolls. There's way too much standing around, which drops the energy level and stunts the flow.

And as we all know, often times the best offense is a great defense. Mykal Riley and Alonzo Gee seem most capable of anticipating passes and slicing into passing lanes, but there has to be more of this. Alabama's open-floor attack is one of the best around; we just need to see more of it.

Some of my colleagues have noted: as Gee goes, so goes the Tide. It is incumbent on Alabama to give Gee plenty of touches as he strikes toward the goal–behind picks and other creative means–and not just routine passes on the perimeter. Gee is blossoming as an offensive threat, and his combination of athleticism and shooting skills are rare in the SEC and the country.

I reiterate my argument: Jermareo Davidson should watch the tape of his performance against Kentucky last season on a daily basis. The kid abused a guy coming off a long break–Randolph Morris–with a series of drop steps, spins and not-so-subtle rampages straight to the rim.

We understand Davidson has lost 15 pounds or so, likely as a result of all the recent off-the-court problems he has endured. So he needs to go high-protein the rest of the season, add as much weight as he can, and try to reassert the physical prowess that has been part of his game. It looked like Davidson had a much more aggressive offensive mentality against Georgia, a good sign for Gottfried, though he shot just 4 of 10 from the floor.

Big men need to be around the 60 per cent mark–such as Richard Hendrix's 60.8 per cent–so Davidson's 40 per cent shooting on the season is a cause for alarm.

Gottfried rediscovered something in the Georgia game. When Steele is tiring and his ankle ailing, and opponents are shooting their swift guards past him on offense and swarming him on defense, there's a player on his bench who can help. Brandon Hollinger provided 17 mostly quality minutes on Saturday.

Hollinger's defense kept Gaines from continuing his eruption and gave the Tide much-needed speed on the perimeter. Hollinger even canned a three-pointer and made a pair of free throws to aid the comeback cause.

Alabama appears to lack some of the hunger of its opponents–a situation that will likely be on display Tuesday at Auburn, which has lost seven in a row to the men in crimson.

The warning call has been sounded. Will Alabama respond?

Thomas Murphy is the Alabama beat writer for the Mobile Register and a contributor to ‘BAMA Magazine and BamaMag.com


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