Alabama Trying To Stem 3-point Tide

FAYETTEVILLE -- After an embarrassing defensive effort in a 70-56 loss to Vanderbilt to open Southeastern Conference play last Wednesday and a similar struggle in the first half against LSU on Saturday, No. 19 Alabama finally showed some signs of progress.

The struggling Tigers shot 56.5 percent in the first half and 6 of 9 from the 3-point line to trail 35-34 before the Crimson Tide finally clamped down by holding LSU to two 3-pointers and 29 percent shooting in the second half to pull away for a 73-59 win and even its SEC record at 1-1 (12-3 overall).

Coming off its surprise run to the Elite Eight last season with four of its starters from that team returning, Alabama has not been a good defensive team this season and coach Mark Gottfried pointed some blame at his veterans, senior Earnest Shelton and junior Kennedy Winston after Vanderbilt hit 12 3-pointers in its win.

Gottfried benched the two stars for a stretch against Vanderbilt and singled them out after the game.

"We've got to step up and get a sense of urgency there that I didn't think existed from our two veteran perimeter players," Gottfried said.

Temple hit 12 3-pointers in its 75-71 loss to Alabama and North Texas, Washington, Charlotte and Washington all made at least 10 versus the Tide.

Alabama has allowed 120 makes from the 3-point line this year, easily the worst in the SEC and its 39.2 percentage allowed from outside ranks just ahead of Ole Miss' 39.4 for 11th place in the conference.

The Tide rank in the bottom half of the SEC in scoring defense (69.3, seventh) and field goal defense (41.5, seventh).

While Alabama felt better about its defense in the second half against LSU because of a 17-0 run to push ahead 60-42, the Tigers weren't as impressed after a 15-5 run to cut the ‘Bama lead to 65-57 with less than four minutes remaining.

"I really didn't see them play much defense on us," said LSU sophomore forward Brandon Bass, who had 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting. "We just made some careless mistakes."

Alabama will try to continue its second-half progress when the Tide roll into Fayetteville to face Arkansas (13-2, 1-1) Tuesday for a nationally televised game on ESPN.

Shelton bounced back from a two-point game in the Tide's 76-62 road loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 29 and eight-point night against Vandy with a 7 of 11 night against LSU for 19 points.

Shelton continues to struggle from outside, though, and is 4 of his last 17 from the 3-point line.

Gottfried has been blunt in his assessment of Shelton's play of late.

"This team needs him to play better than he has on both ends of the floor," he said.

Shelton said his confidence is fine and he still has the faith of his teammates, but he needs to start knocking down more shots and picking up his defense.

Despite returning four starters from its Elite Eight team, Alabama is not very deep with four true freshmen and four redshirt freshmen on the roster

The biggest loss was heart-and-soul point guard Antoine Pettway, who hit the shot to force overtime in Alabama's comeback from 20 points down to win 72-68 against Arkansas in Fayetteville last season.

Only seven Tide players logged time against LSU and all five starters played between 35 and 38 minutes.

Pettway has been replaced by freshman Ronald Steele, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound guard who is averaging 34.7 minutes, 9.5 points and 4.8 assists per game.

True freshmen Jean Felix and Albert Weber, junior Evan Brock and redshirt freshman Justin Jonas are averaging between 10-12 minutes per game and the starters average from Jermareo Davidson's 25 to Winston and Steele's 34.

Winston and Shelton are averaging more than 17.2 and 16.8 points, respectively, junior forward Chuck Davis is averaging 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and sophomore Davidson is averaging a team-high 8.1 rebounds and 9.4 points.

Articles from The Birmingham News contributed to this report.

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