Defense Keys Tide Basketball Success

When Anthony Grant took over as Alabama's head basketball coach, he pledged that his team would be active on defense. And the Crimson Tide has brought excitement with its pressing style of defense. Bama has also given headaches to opponents by causing turnovers that fuel Bama points.

Alabama will show its stuff a final time before Christmas with a 7 p.m. Wednesday game at Coleman Coliseum against the Mercer Bears. The Crimson Tide will be coming off a loss to 17th-ranked Kansas State that dropped the Bama record to 7-4. Alabama has played three ranked teams this year, defeating Michigan, falling to Purdue and Kansas State.

Mercer is 4-6 after a 99-59 loss at Vanderbilt Monday. Last year the Bears started Bama on its way to a poor season by upsetting the Crimson Tide, 72-69, in the first game of the year. Alabama holds a 5-2 advantage in all games against Mercer.

Alabama hopes to continue to force turnovers when Bama hosts Mercer. In its last five games, Bama has held a plus-39 advantage in turnover margin, forcing 102 combined turnovers against North Florida, Louisiana-Monroe, Purdue, Samford, and Kansas State. The five opponents turned the ball over approximately one-third of their possessions.

Alabama has scored 91 points off those turnovers. That accounts for 26 per cent of Crimson Tide scoring in those games.

Alabama's last seven opponents have had more turnovers against the Tide than those teams' season averages.

A key statistic for Bama has been its three-point defense. In its wins, Alabama has held opponents to only 32.2 per cent three-point shooting. In its losses, Tide opponents have connected on treys at a 47.7 per cent rate, a 15.5 per cent improvement. Rebounding has also been important with the Tide pulling down 36 per game in wins, only 28.5 per cent in losses.

Alabama is led by point guard Mikhail Torrance. He's averaging 15.8 points per game on 52.5 per cent shooting. Torrance has been particularly good at the free throw line, making 90 per cent (45-50). He is Alabama's career free throw shooter at 87 per cent (154-177). Ronald Steele is second all-time. In 90 career games Torrance has never had more than one missed free throw in a game.

Torrance also averages 5.5 assists per game.

JaMychal Green is second in scoring at 14.7 points per gamel. Green leads the Tide in rebounding at 6.4 per game.

Tony Mitchell appears to be a star of the future. The true freshman is averaging 9.1 points per game and shooting at an impressive 56.2 per cent. He's also averaging 3.6 steals per game since joining the starting lineup.

Also expected to start for Bama are Senario Hillman (l7.7 points per game) and Anthony Brock (6.6 points per game).

Mercer is led by James Florence, who averages 21.8 points per game, and Daniel Emerson, averaging a double-double, 11.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.

"Mercer is a very well coached and tough team," said Alabama head coach Anthony Grant. "They've got a point guard as good as any point guard we've seen and from a defensive standpoint we'll need to play very well. Plus they're one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, averaging 16 offensive rebounds per game. It will be a very tough and physical game for us."

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