Now that he has all the pieces in place, University of Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson says he isn’t going to hesitate in finding a rotation that works for the Crimson Tide basketball team.
That task becomes immediately important as the Crimson Tide faces Texas in Birmingham on Friday night. The game at Legacy Arena was nearing sellout status by Thursday.
Alabama is coming off a narrow 80-79 victory over Mercer on Tuesday in Huntsville. Sophomore forward Braxton Key was back in the Crimson Tide lineup for the first time since the season began but was clearly still getting acclimated after a two-month layup to recuperate from knee surgery. Alabama didn’t seem to find an effective offensive rotation until midway through the second half.
“This was the first game where we have had everyone back,” Johnson said. “Remember, Riley (Norris) was injured and Braxton has been injured. So I think we actually have a pretty good grasp of who is our first five and who is our second five —Riley, Herbert (Jones), (Avery Johnson) Junior, Daniel Giddens and (Alex) Reese. But what I think we saw was that we won’t necessarily have that five all in the game at the same time. We’ll keep some of the first group in and maybe work one or two of the second group in with them.”
That was particularly successful in the Mercer win with Reese, as the freshman forward scored a career-high 10 points, eight in the second half.
Texas has had its own lineup issues as it looks to replace the offensive production of leading scorer Andrew Jones, who sustained a wrist fracture early in December. The Longhorns still have two outstanding frontcourt players in 6-foot-9 Tulane transfer Dylan Ostekowski (15.2 points per game) and 7-foot freshman center Mohamed Bamba, a projected NBA Lottery pick who is one of the nation’s top rebounders (9.7 per game) and shot blockers (4.1 per game).
“He’s a rim protector,” Alabama guard Dazon Ingram said on Thursday. “He’s a big guy who can really run and get to the shooter. You just have to be aware that he’s there and be prepared to finish strong when you take it to the basket.”
Alabama walk-on guard Lawson Schaffer will miss a second straight game as he remains in concussion protocol.
Alabama vs. Texas
When: Friday at 8 p.m.
Where: Legacy Arena in Birmingham
Records: Alabama 8-3, Texas 8-3
Radio: 95.3 FM (Crimson Tide Sports Network)