Bama Hoops Hype

Perimeter defense proves difference in Alabama win over South Carolina

Photo by Joe Habshey - Bama Hoops Hype

 After the lashing the Tide took in Athens Saturday afternoon, Avery Johnson knew a change needed to be made.  Pointing to his team’s inability to guard the ball on the perimeter and therefore allow countless wide-open opportunities for the Bulldogs to shoot from deep, Avery Johnson looked to a new lineup to try and turn the Tide coming home against one of last year’s final four teams, South Carolina.

Opting for a much bigger lineup that included both Daniel Giddens and Donta Hall, the Tide started Collin Sexton, Herbert Jones, and Braxton Key to try and defend from the inside out, establishing a presence in the paint that limited the effectiveness of the Gamecocks big men, allowing the guards of Alabama to remain on the perimeter without fear of being beaten inside.  Keeping the guards out there meant that the Tide would be in prime position to contest shots from deep and limit the number of wide open shots from distance that proved so deadly just a few days prior.

Postgame, Avery pointed to the simplification of his defense as the catalyst for his team’s seemingly overnight transformation in the ability to guard both inside and out.

“Simplifying the defense, simplifying our coverages, {we} took a lot of grey area out and weight off the players shoulders.”

Johnson’s trust in his players to execute with rhythm rather than formula seems to have made a difference in a team that looks built for playing with flow.  Many of the forwards for the Tide, including Braxton Key and Herbert Jones found themselves mixing it up in the paint with the big men and allowed the Tide to form a presence for themselves on the backboard, a big point of emphasis for Johnson going into tonight matchup.

The change also showed in the players decision making. By taking the guesswork out of playing defense, Johnson allowed his players to play within themselves, trusting their judgement in his system while also allowing their athletic ability to be able to keep their opposition in check.

It was because of this improvement on defense that the Tide were able to cruise so easily to a victory tonight.  The Tide held the Gamecocks to a mere 35% from the field for the game, 28% in the second half.  This low percentage could be put down to an off day from the South Carolina point of view, but the Tide seemed far more capable of contesting perimeter shots in this contest and there were very few times that Alabama found themselves conceding any wide-open attempts – big factors in the Tide’s ability to keep South Carolina in check like they did tonight.

Now this is just one game, and a home game coming off a terrible loss on the road at that, but if the Tide can continue to establish that interior presence early every game, they will give themselves a shot to win against any team they come across on the remainder of their schedule.


Johnathan Anderson covers Alabama Men’s Basketball for Bama Hoops Hype. You can connect with him on Twitter.

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