Grant Does Not Expect Same LSU

On the surface, this would look like a potentially good week for Alabama's basketball team. The Crimson Tide plays the two teams with the worst records in Southeastern Conference play. Moreover, Bama will be home to one of those teams – an LSU team Alabama defeated handily in Baton Rouge just two and a half weeks ago.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said Monday morning that he hadn't completed the scouting report on LSU, but that he expects both Bama and the Bengal Tigers to be familiar with one another and to make "adjustments based on what happened in the last game."

What happened in the last game, which was the SEC opener, was that Alabama went into Baton Rouge and turned in a shocking 66-49 upset.

Alabama, coming off a 62-57 upset of 23rd ranked Mississippi State last Saturday, will host LSU at 7 p.m. CST Wednesday in ColemanColiseum. Bama is now 12-7 overall and 2-3 in SEC games. LSU is 9-10 overall and is the only SEC team that does not have a conference victory. The Tigers are 0-5 in the league.

On Saturday, Alabama will be at Auburn for a 3 p.m. CST game. Thus far it has been a bad SEC basketball season for teams named "Tigers." Auburn has only one victory in league games—a win against LSU. Auburn is 10-10 overall, 1-4 in league games.

In between LSU and Mississippi State, Bama was in a slump, three straight conference losses.

Grant said that he had not yet seen enough of LSU to discuss how the Tigers might be different than a few weeks ago. "I think maybe a little different lineup, maybe one or two lineup changes that they've made, but outside of that I really haven't seen enough of their more recent games to really tell you that there's a lot of changes. Obviously we've got a couple of days here to try to figure out some things that maybe they do differently and some things that we can try to change based on the last time we played them."

He said, "I'm sure there will be a lot of adjustments they'll make based on how we guarded them there [in Baton Rouge] and things that we'll do differently based on having a chance to be familiar with what they want to do against us. Do I think there will be some bearing (from the previous game)? Yes, but I think this game will have a completely different feel than what we saw two weeks ago, so we've got to be prepared for that."

The most notable trait of Alabama basketball in the first year under Grant is the relentless defensive pressure Bama applies to the opponents. Six of the last seven Tide opponents have shot below 40 per cent from the field. SEC opponents are a combined 38.5 per cent on field goals against the Tide.

"I think our defense has given us chances in every game that we've played and I think that's one thing that's been consistent throughout SEC play," Grant said. "I think every game brings different challenges and our guys have met the challenge up to this point. [I]f we continue to do that, if we can defend and we can get consistent in terms of rebounding then that gives us a chance at least every night.

"Sometimes other teams are missing, but I do think our guys are giving good effort. I think we understand the intensity that we have to play with against the competition that we're playing against every night. It's a process where hopefully we understand that we've got to bring that energy and effort every night and if you do that, at least you're going to have an opportunity and that's all we can look for. I couldn't sit here and tell you we've got anything figured out because we don't. Every game brings different challenges and we've got to be prepared for that challenge on a given day."

There was discussion following Alabama's upset of Mississippi State, in which the Tide held the Bulldogs to only 31.7 per cent shooting and, notably, held MSU (the SEC's leader in three-point shooting) to only 2-18 from the behind the arc, that the Crimson Tide had forced the Bulldogs to play at a fast pace. Bama pressed full court part of the time, and was aggressive in its halfcourt defense.

Grant was asked which aspect of the defensive plan was responsible for the impact on the Bulldogs.

"I think it was both," the Tide coach said. "I thought our guys did a good job of understanding what we had to do, what we had to try to take away from them in terms of their ability to shoot the three. I thought our guys did a good job of that."

Grant said, "We've got to consistently defend the three-point line. I thought we did a very good job this weekend against Mississippi State of trying to limit their opportunities. If you look at the Mississippi State game, we were able to get a lead because we had some success offensively. They went on a run there and cut that lead early in the game, then we went into an offensive lull to close the half out and they got some transition baskets on us. We got up 12 in the second half then they went on a run, a 14-0 run, against us because of some things that we didn't do on the defensive end. I think overall we just have to get more consistent in terms of understanding that we can't allow what happens on the offensive end to affect our effort and focus on the defensive end. We've got to continue to focus on rebounding the basketball and not giving up second shots and second-chance opportunities.

"I think just like I said when we started, and I'll continue to say every week: we're just trying to get better with every game. I think with every practice and every game the guys are understanding what the demands are and what's required. I think with every success we have that it solidifies in their minds why we do what we do and we're learning.

"I think the thing I've been impressed with our guys, either through wins or through losses, is that they maintain that willingness to get better, to want to learn and to want to grow. Sometimes it's been through pushing and prodding to force it, but other times it's been where they understand that we've got to change the mindset and mentality in terms of how we approach what we do.

"So, it's a work in progress. The truth of the matter is that we could come out this week and not play well defensively. We have nothing figured out. I think the thing we've got to do is try to give ourselves a chance every night to win and that starts on the defensive end."

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