Tide Has To Get Back Into Rhythm

Several years ago a friend of mine who owned a luxury condo in an exclusive setting on one of the islands of the Bahamas was complaining about a hurricane damaging his roof and how much time he was having to spend down there getting it taken care of. I told him it was hard to work up much sympathy.

I had that feeling again when Alabama Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried talked about how his team had to get its body back in rhythm after spending nearly a week on the island of Maui in Hawaii for a tournament. Oh, what a hardship!

Alabama players will go to work on that task of adjusting to Tuscaloosa time beginning at 7 p.m. CST tonight (Tuesday) in Coleman Coliseum against winless Alabama A&M. Bama is 3-2 after having won two of three games at the Maui Invitational last week (losing badly to Oregon, then rebounding to meet Chaminade and St. Joseph's). Alabama A&M has lost two close games, but they were to Oakwood and Talladega.

"Number one for us right now is to just kind of get back on a routine, get the body geared back physically," Gottfried said. "I know our guys have been adjusting back from Hawaii time, and our practices have been pretty good the last two days. I think our guys are anxious to play another game. We have been up all night trying to get ourselves to sleep and those kinds of things. I think the game is good to play and it kind of forces you to get back on good rhythm.

"I thought our trip out there to Hawaii, overall, ended up being a pretty good trip. I think we improved and got better. I think we've got a long ways to go and I think there are a lot of areas we can improve on. I think from the first game to the second and the third, we defended a lot better, we executed a lot better and we're learning what shots we need to take and who needs to be taking them and at what points in the game.

"We're becoming a team. And again, that is something that we have to work on, obviously, a lot. We've got Alabama A&M and, for us, it's an opportunity to come out and play and keep improving on all the things we want to improve upon – pushing the ball on the break, running the ball and making good decisions while you're running the ball. To be a good running team, that doesn't mean just running down there and just jack it up from anywhere. We still want to get good shots and high percentage shots. I think we even defensively we are improving, but we can get a lot better."

It was something of a surprise that Alabama's top player in Hawaii was sophomore guard Senario Hillman. He led the Crimson Tide in scoring over the course of the three games with 16 points per game. Hillman scored in double figures in each of the three games, pouring in a career-high 22 points against Chaminade on Nov. 25. The Irwinton, Ga., native opened tournament play with 16 points against Oregon and added 10 more in the finale against Saint Joseph's. Hillman also led Alabama in steals with six and shot 57 per cent (22-38) from the floor.

Point guard Ron Steele leads the Tide with a 14.2 points per game average, followed by Hillman at 11.8. Small forward Alonzo Gee averages 9.8, and freshman low post JaMychal Green 9.4 (and a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game). The fifth starter could be another post player, either Demetrius Jemison (4.0 points), Justin Knox (2.4), or Yamene Coleman (4.4).

Mikhail Torrance (7.2 points per game) had been the first perimeter player off the bench and both Brandon Hollinger (2.6) and Anthony Brock (3.3) had been getting substantial play, but Brock has been relegated to spot play at best and on Monday Gottfried said freshman Andrew Steele, Ronald Steele's brother, had worked himself into the rotation as the first man off the bench on the perimeter.

The Alabama men's basketball team returns home and will remain in the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum for the course of eight games. The homestand spans all the way into January when the Crimson Tide finally leaves to play the Clemson Tigers on Jan. 6. The contest against Clemson closes out non-conference play for the Tide.

Alabama will continue its eight game homestand with a Sunday matinee against Louisiana Lafayette. The Crimson Tide will match up against the Ragin Cajuns on Sunday, Dec. 7 at Noon at Coleman Coliseum. The men's game will be the first of two on campus as the women's team will host Sam Houston State after the conclusion of the men's game.

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