Bama Hoops Hype

Defense Key To Finishing Regular Season Strong

Alabama Men's Basketball

Alabama has been known for its defensive consistency throughout the season but has struggled over the last week. Kentucky and Auburn were the first pair of Tide opponents to score at least 80 points in consecutive games this season.

So what has happened to the strong defense that Avery Johnson has been known for? The Crimson Tide entered the game in Lexington as the top scoring defense in the SEC. They were holding their opponents to below 40 percent shooting from the field in conference play, a number that was better than Virginia against ACC opponents.

With two home games against SEC opponents – both of which are tied with Alabama for third in the conference – the Crimson Tide have a huge opportunity to put the final stamp on the up-and-down regular season.

“It has more to do with us, it’s what we need to do better,” Avery Johnson Jr. said in Friday’s press conference. “Those last two games are the most points we’ve given up. I think going into the SEC (Tournament), we’re one of the top defensive teams so we’re going to get back to that.”

If you watched any part of the losses to Kentucky and Auburn, you could see the defense struggle throughout both games. However, you would not know it by the box scores.

Kentucky shot 43.8 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from beyond the arc. Auburn only shot 42.6 percent overall and 35.3 percent on 3-pointers. (It just felt like they made everything.) Alabama finished with a better shooting percentage in both games but attempted 25 less shots than its opponents.

In those two games, the Crimson Tide combined for 30 turnovers, which was eight more than their opponents, and 15 offense rebounds, which was 19 less than their opponents. If you’re new to basketball, these games were the perfect example of how defense is more than just shooting percentages. And head coach Avery Johnson knows it.

“I think a lot of it has do with us offensively. Our lack of offense and the way we take care of the ball puts an enormous strain on the defense,” Johnson said on Friday. “Our defense can be at the top of the league when we have a chance to get it set and when we’re focused, when we’re locked in and when we’re rebounding.”

Alabama’s next game is against a team that is very capable of putting up a big number on the scoreboard as well. Arkansas enters Saturday’s game second in the SEC with an average of 77.5 points per game in conference play. Since the start of February, the Razorbacks are averaging 80 points per game and have not scored less than 72 points.

Alabama has not allowed three consecutive opponents to score 80 points in a regulation game since 1980 when C.M. Newton was the coach. History may be on the team’s side but do not expect it to have any effect on the game in Coleman Coliseum on Saturday.

The final five games of the Crimson Tide’s regular season have been circled since October. Alabama did not get off to the start it wanted but it will certainly be excusable if the team can bounce back with some wins before postseason play.

“Don’t get me wrong, the teams we played were pretty good,” junior Donta Hall said. “I just feel like we need to step our defense up a little more and work a little harder.”

Saturday’s game between Alabama and Arkansas is scheduled to tip off at 5 p.m. CT and will be televised on SEC Network.

Caleb Turrentine is the editor for Bama Hoops Hype. You can follow him on Twitter for in-game updates at @BamaHoopsHype.

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