February has arrived and the University of Alabama basketball team needs some wins in the worst way.
Alabama head coach Avery Johnson had an even simpler step in mind on Saturday.
“We need to be able to look ourselves in the mirror after the game,” Johnson said. “Win or lose, we need to look at ourselves after the game and say we gave our best effort. When we lost at Arizona (an 87-82 defeat in December), we were disappointed but we knew we had given our best effort. I don’t think that was the case in our last game.
“We had too many regrets after the Missouri game.”
That loss — a momentum-stifling 69-60 defeat at Coleman Coliseum last Wednesday — has only increased the sense of urgency as Alabama travels to No. 23 Florida on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPN.) The Gators are also coming in after a road loss at Georgia last Tuesday night but are expecting a sellout crowd at the O’Connell Center.
Johnson spent most of his 11-minute press conference discussing the need to find “the right words” to motivate the team, saying that “99.5 percent” of the issues in the Missouri loss was finding the “right way” to address his team, adding that “whatever I’ve said so far, it hasn’t been good enough.” He mentioned only one current UA player by name during the entire 11 minutes, and that was injured senior forward Riley Norris.
“We need some veteran leadership,” Johnson said. “That’s the other 0.5 percent of it.”
The immediate issues will be guarding a versatile Gator team led by one of the nation’s premier point guards in senior Chris Chiozza, who averages 12.8 points and 6.4 assists per game and should provide a speed-on-speed test for Alabama guard Collin Sexton.
Much of Gator offense relies on the 3-point shot —five different Florida players have attempted 50 or more 3-point shots this season — especially in the absence of 6-foot-9 center John Egbunu, who has missed most of the season with a knee injury. Florida coach Mike White pointed out the disparity in the Gator offense during his own Friday press conference.
“We’ve got develop guys’ ability to get to rim, to finish (and) get to the foul line,” White said. “We’re very one dimensional.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.