Avery Johnson

(AP Photo/James Crisp)
AP Photo/James Crisp

No. 16 Kentucky rolls Alabama 85-59 in SEC Tournament

Leave a comment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Despite statistical proof that playing Alabama brought out his best this season, Kentucky forward Alex Poythress summed up his outstanding play against the Crimson Tide as pure coincidence.

Wherever his motivation came from, the No. 16 Wildcats benefited.

Jamal Murray scored 23 points, Poythress made a career-best four 3-pointers and Kentucky had an easy time in an 85-59 rout of Alabama on Friday night in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Playing about 50 miles southeast of his Clarksville, Tennessee, home, Poythress put on an offensive show in his final SEC tournament with 7-of-8 shooting including 4 of 5 from long range for 20 points. It was his third 20-point game this season and first since posting a career-best 25 at Alabama on Jan. 9.

Not that that meant anything.

“Sometimes it happens, sometimes it don’t, you know,” said Poythress, who averaged 19.6 points in three games against Alabama this season. “Everybody was just great offensively. We played a complete game today.”

Murray added perimeter shots as second-seeded Kentucky finished 13 of 22 from behind the arc to beat the 10th-seeded Crimson Tide (18-14) for the third time this season. The Wildcats advanced to Saturday’s semifinal against the Georgia-South Carolina winner.

Tyler Ulis added 17 points for the Wildcats, who beat the Crimson Tide by an average margin of 22 points this season.

Arthur Edwards had 20 points and Retin Obasohan 18, but Alabama couldn’t keep pace with the hot-shooting Wildcats.

The Crimson Tide certainly had no answer for Poythress, especially when he stepped out behind the arc.

“We came into the game trying to minimize his success in the paint and wanted to contest him at three,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said, “but we didn’t expect him to shoot the ball like Jamal Murray. He made some shots. He had it going.”

Kentucky’s postseason prospects were already set, and the aim this weekend is to earn the highest possible seeding when the field is announced on Sunday. The Wildcats took an impressive first step toward being high in the bracket with 55 percent shooting from the field.

Alabama’s postseason chances remain up in the air, but the Crimson Tide’s second game in as many nights ended with 42 percent shooting and 13 turnovers. They were also outrebounded 31-27.

Kentucky wasn’t so good at the start, making just 4 of first 11 shots and showing a little rust from having not played because of their double bye. The Wildcats regrouped to hit 10 of their final 15 first-half shots to lead 37-27 at the break and were even better from behind the arc (6 of 10), with Poythress making a couple to help them gain some distance.

The Crimson Tide meanwhile struggled more for baskets than the previous night against Mississippi, making just 10 of 26 from the field. Three-point shooting (5 of 12) provided a bright spot, and Alabama had just one fewer rebound than the Wildcats but needed big games from nearly everybody in order to pull off the upset.

Even at their best, the Tide faced an uphill battle keeping pace with Kentucky’s outside game that stayed hot in the second half. Ulis made back-to-back shots before Murray added one to build a 55-37 lead, and the Wildcats were well on their way toward a semifinal appearance.

“We shot the ball well,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

TIP-INS

Alabama: The Crimson Tide finished 9 of 25 from 3-point range.

Kentucky: Dominique Hawkins and Skal Labissiere each added seven points for the Wildcats, who also had 18 assists.

UP NEXT:

Alabama: Awaiting postseason announcement.

Kentucky: Faces Georgia-South Carolina winner in Saturday’s semifinal.

No. 19 South Carolina suffers first loss in blowout fashion

Alabama forward Riley Norris (1) is congratulated after a three-pointer over the South Carolina Gamecocks during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Eric Schultz)
Associated Press
Leave a comment

On some nights seemingly nothing can go right for a team, making it nearly impossible to come away with the win. That was the case for No. 19 South Carolina Wednesday night, as they struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor and suffered their first loss of the season, 73-50 at Alabama.

Frank Martin’s team, which has thrived due to its offensive balance, tough defense and team chemistry, could not hit a shot against the Crimson Tide. After making just 30.8 percent of their shots in the first half the Gamecocks were even worse to start the second, missing their first 14 shots of the half (overall streak of 17 straight missed shots) as Alabama went on a 13-0 run and led by 26 with just over 14 minutes remaining.

That hole was far too deep for South Carolina to climb out of, as the Crimson Tide did a good job of keeping the visitors out of the paint offensively. That forced a number of challenged jump shots, be it from mid-range or from three, and with those shots not falling things snowballed on South Carolina.

One player who had no problem hitting shots: Alabama’s Riley Norris. Entering the game averaging six points per contest, Norris finished with a career-high 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting (8-for-11 3PT) to go along with seven rebounds. Norris scored 15 of Alabama’s first 19 points, all on three-pointers, as the Crimson Tide jumped out to a 19-4 lead.

That opening run put South Carolina in a position where they played faster than they were comfortable doing on the offensive end, settling for shots instead of working for quality looks. Over the last two games the Gamecocks have shot 8-for-42 from three, which is a concern for a team that’s one of the best in the country at knocking down three-pointers (38.5 percent entering Wednesday). Add in 18 turnovers Alabama converted into 23 points, and those factors resulted in South Carolina taking its first loss by a surprisingly large margin.

Alabama, which earned its first SEC win under head coach Avery Johnson, now has three wins over ranked teams this season, and doing so in front of a raucous crowd also celebrating another football national title is a nice boost for a rebuilding program. As for South Carolina the lessons are simple: take better care of the ball, and find higher quality shots.

Alabama point guard Ingram out for season with foot injury

Associated Press
Leave a comment

TUSCALOSSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama point guard Dazon Ingram will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot.

Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson says the freshman fractured his left foot in practice on Tuesday.

Ingram is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday morning. He has helped lead the Tide to a 5-2 start that included winning back-to-back games over Top 25 teams for the first time in nearly a decade.

Ingram has started every game and leads the team with 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while averaging 7.7 points. Johnson says Retin Obasohan, Justin Coleman and Lawson Schaffer will have to step up in Ingram’s absence.

Ingram was Alabama’s Mr. Basketball last season at Theodore High School.

Avery Johnson stirring up excitement before Alabama debut

Avery Johnson
Associated Press
2 Comments

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Avery Johnson has created some excitement around Alabama’s program, making inroads on the recruiting trail and drawing a big crowd to a preseason event.

The first-year Crimson Tide coach might take longer to turn that buzz into wins but guard Retin Obasohan is enjoying the change.

“Gosh, it’s electrifying,” Obasohan said. “You can feel it. You can sense it. It’s like an aura that’s in the air. Everywhere you go, you’ve got people whispering. They think you can’t hear it, but we can hear everything they’re saying.”

Much of that attention is because of the splashy hiring of Johnson, a former NBA coach of the year and longtime San Antonio Spurs point guard who replaced the fired Anthony Grant.

His catch phrase has been “buckle up.” But the ride could be bumpy at times during his first season.

As Johnson said: “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

The Tide has been picked to finish 13th in the 14-team league.

Johnson must replace the top three scorers from last year’s team that advanced to the second round of the NIT, including team captain Levi Randolph.

That means big roles for some of the five newcomers – not counting two transfers who have to sit out the season – and increased expectations for returnees like forwards Shannon Hale and Jimmie Taylor and point guard Justin Coleman.

The athletic but inconsistent Hale is the top returning scorer after averaging 8.2 points a game before missing the final six games with a broken foot.

“I think this is the best I’ve felt in two years,” Hale said. “I’ve been rehabbing all summer. I’m just getting back to myself. It’s been going great.”

Johnson did wrap up a solid recruiting class after his hiring, especially within Alabama. He brought in Mr. Basketball guard Dazon Ingram, along with forward Donta Hall and guard Brandon Austin, and has begun the makings of another strong class.

Graduate transfer Arthur Edwards, a reserve with New Mexico, also joins the team.

Here are some things to know about Alabama’s team in 2015-16.

FAN SUPPORT: Nearly 7,500 fans showed up for Tide Tipoff, an event promoting the men’s and women’s teams Tuesday night that featured 3-point shooting and dunk contests and a performance by hip hop artist Rae Sremmurd. By comparison, fewer than 2,500 fans showed up for Alabama’s opening round NIT game against Illinois.

TEMPO: Johnson has geared practices toward speeding up the playing tempo for a team that averaged just 63.2 points per game in SEC play. “That transformation has been tough in a lot of ways because they’re playing faster more consistently than they ever have,” he said.

TAYLOR’S ROLE: Johnson had high praise for the 6-foot-10 Taylor, whose 59 blocked shots were the most by an Alabama player since Jamychal Green in 2010-11. He’s the only returning player who started all 34 games last season, averaging 5.5 points and 4.9 rebounds. “Jimmie’s gotten better at all facets of the game,” Johnson said. “We’re looking for him to have a much better year than averaging five points a game. We’re going to lean on him a lot this year.”

MISSING SCORING: Replacing the versatile Randolph won’t be easy. He led the team in scoring and assists and was second in rebounding. But he, Ricky Tarrant and Rodney Cooper combined to average nearly 40 points a game for a team that struggled offensively.

RETIN’S RETURN: Obasohan finished last season as one of Alabama’s hottest players after replacing an injured Tarrant. He scored in double figures only once in his first 20 games then averaged 12.2 points per game over the final 14.

Alabama forward Hale still recovering from foot injury

Justin Coleman, Shannon Hale
Associated Press
Leave a comment

With the team’s top three scorers from last season having moved on, Alabama will need increased production from junior forward Shannon Hale in head coach Avery Johnson’s debut season. Hale averaged 8.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 28 games last season, of which he started 15. Unfortunately for Hale his season was cut short by six games due to a broken foot suffered in the first half of a win over South Carolina February 24.

Hale’s been working hard to return to full strength, but the process will take some time. According to Michael Casagrande of AL.com, Hale’s just begun to go through some half-court drills. It remains to be seen when the 6-foot-8 Hale will be able to return to full activity for the Crimson Tide, who are also working to get Michael Kessens back into game shape.

Forward Michael Kessens should be ready to play by the season begins, but he’s been out for a while. Johnson said he’s “slowly rounding into shape” and they need him to play a big role this year. “We’ve broken his body down physically and now we’re putting it back together,” Johnson said. “So he’s come a long way since I first took the job.”

Guard Retin Obasohan, who averaged more than 12 points per game over Alabama’s final 13 games of the season, is back and will give this young group some needed experience on the perimeter. But, if Alabama’s to hold its own in an SEC that’s gotten stronger they’ll need a full rotation in the front court as well.

And with Kessens and Hale still working towards getting back into a position where they can contribute in games, Alabama could be shorthanded when their season begins November 13 against Kennesaw State with a game at expected Atlantic 10 contender Dayton scheduled for November 17.

Alabama freshman guard not cleared academically by NCAA

Kelly Kline/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just two days after receiving good news in the form of 2016 five-star shooting guard Terrence Ferguson’s commitment, Alabama announced that it will be without one of its commitments in the Class of 2015.

Four-star guard Kobie Eubanks has not been cleared academically by the NCAA, and as a result he will not be joining the Alabama program for the 2015-16 season. The school announced the news via press release Wednesday evening.

“We are disappointed for Kobie and his family,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said in the release. Unfortunately, Kobie wasn’t cleared by the NCAA and we couldn’t get him admitted to the University of Alabama. He has a bright future and we wish him well.”

It should be noted that Elev8 Sports Institute, where Eubanks attended last year, stated Thursday that he has not been declared academically ineligible by the NCAA.

Wednesday’s news is the latest twist in Eubanks’ story, which began nearly two years ago after he’d completed his senior year at Our Savior New American in Centereach, New York. Eubanks spent his sophomore and junior years at American Heritage HS in Florida, and transcripts from that school are where the original problems stemmed from.

In September 2014 Eubanks and his father filed a lawsuit against American Heritage, alleging that the school had changed his transcripts which led to his not being accepted at Baylor.

The suit claims that American Heritage provided Our Savior with a transcript that stated Eubanks’ grade-point average upon leaving American Heritage was 2.5, then later another transcript that put his GPA at 2.37, but certified to Our Savior that the 2.5 transcript was correct. The different numbers, the suit alleges, came from Eubanks’ grades being altered.

According to the suit, Baylor requested all of Eubanks’ transcripts as part of its normal vetting, and the two transcripts from American Heritage drew an NCAA inquiry.

Eubanks spent last year at Elev8 Sports Institute with an eye towards qualifying academically in 2015, but that path did not work out as evidenced by Wednesday’s news. The loss of Eubanks leaves the Crimson Tide with three incoming freshmen: guard Dazon Ingram and forwards Brandon Austin and Donta Hall.