Nov. 27, 2008
Before the Alabama basketball team left Tuscaloosa for Maui, head coach Mark Gottfried had a simple vision of what he wanted this team to accomplish on the trip. To be concise, it merely focused on improvement in every facet of the game but there was particular concern with making drastic strides in rebounding, running the offense effective in half court situations, and playing with consistent intensity on defense.
For all the fun this team had in Maui, it was quickly evident after the loss to Oregon that this team was not simply satisfied with being fortunate enough to count this trip among its college experiences. This group needed to make progress this week. Now, after what may have been this team’s most solid performance of the season to date in a 68-58 victory over a St. Joseph’s squad that annually is among the best in the East, the Crimson Tide could truly look at the trip as a success.
This team improved. It was quickly evident early in the win over St. Joe’s in the final game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Some trends continued Wednesday morning in a game that started at the odd hour of 9 a.m. Hawaii Time (1 p.m. Central Time):
*Alonzo Gee continues to regain his old form. For most of Wednesday’s game, Alonzo was aggressive on both ends of the floor. He ended the day with a team-high 19 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked a shot to lead the Tide.
*Senario Hillman continues to develop his total game. On Wednesday, he added 10 points for Alabama including a key sequence in which he blocked a shot, converted a steal into a dunk to spark a decisive Crimson Tide surge late in the game. That dunk was typical Hillman, a highlight reel swooping slam along the baseline during a key stretch of the second half.
*The Tide played strong defense from the start, holding St. Joe’s to 18 points, the fewest allowed by Alabama in a half of any game since holding Georgia to 17 first-half points in a 75-47 win on Jan. 30, 2005, in Tuscaloosa.
*Rebounding was crucial from start to finish. Part of Alabama’s ability to hold St. Joseph’ to 18 first-half points was strong rebounding on both ends of the court. Alabama held a 15-2 rebounding edge at 11:06 of first half, and lead the rebounding battled 23-10 at the half. For the game, the Tide outrebounded the Hawks by a 37-23 margin.
For the first time this season, Gottfried acknowledged that his team has improved. “We got better today,” Gottfried said. “We really did. This was a different kind of game for us, a lot of half court where as we would like to run more, and a game that really tested our discipline offensively and defensively. We weathered some runs after a good start, but I was proud of our guys. Their approach to games on this trip has been excellent.”
“We played 5 good halves of the six halves we played here. That was our goal after losing to Oregon. We improved, but we needed to.”
Some tidbits from the trip on Wednesday:
|CTSN Radio Crew
*A 9 a.m. tipoff makes for some interesting planning challenges. The team awoke at 5 a.m. on Wednesday for the pregame meal. By 6:30 they had already completed breakfast and their pregame scouting meeting. They boarded the bus at 7:45 and arrived at the arena at 8 a.m. All things considered, the team dealt with that early start quite well.
*One of the funniest moments of the season occurred during a key stretch in the second half. Forward Yamene Coleman was crucial to the Alabama effort with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 1 blocked shot – all in the second half. But his most memorable basket came on a jumper from the top of the key during a 3-on-1 fast break. The big man pulled up and nailed the jumper, but just about gave everyone involved a heart attack as he passed up what probably would have been a sure layup for the jumper.
*After Wednesday’s game, most of the traveling party returned to the Westin Maui by Noon local time and had the rest of the day off. Players went shopping, roamed the beaches, or walked down the shore to a place called Black Rock to see some cliff diving. Black Rock is located about a mile up the shore from the hotel and is a popular spot for snorkeling and swimming.