The Alabama men’s basketball team returns home on Saturday — and hopes that its collective shooting touch returns with it.
The Crimson Tide split a two-game road swing, winning at Florida before losing at Mississippi State last Tuesday but made just 7 of 35 attempts from 3-point range (20 percent) in the two games combined.
No. 15 Tennessee at Alabama
When: 5 p.m. CT Saturday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 15-9, 6-5 SEC, Tennessee 18-5, 8-3 SEC
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
“We know we have better shooters than that,” freshman Herb Jones said on Friday as the Crimson Tide prepared for No. 15 Tennessee in a sold out Saturday home game. “We’ve got confidence in all our guys. We just need to be relaxed and take open shots.”
Alabama hasn’t been sizzling in its home SEC games, but is making a more manageable 35 percent (34 of 99) in those contests. However, Alabama coach Avery Johnson said the key to better offense — including 3-point shooting — was better decisions, not simply singling out a player and saying he “needs to shoot better.”
“We talk about ‘Buckle Up,’ and wanting to play fast but those are just words,” Johnson said. “To play fast, you’ve got to run fast, and to run fast, you’ve got to make good decisions with the basketball. What’s not excusable is when you don’t take care of the ball… (at Mississippi State), our spacing was poor, we didn’t make the extra pass. We weren’t ready to shoot. You want to receive the pass like you’re ready to shoot. We didn’t do that enough.
So that film was another teaching moment and hopefully we will be more prepared for this game.”
Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner is one of the top shooters in the SEC and an emerging All-SEC candidate in the backcourt. The 6-foot-1 guard, averaging 16.2 points over the last six games with a crucial 16 points in the Vols’ win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena last Saturday, was a standout at Sparkman High School (near Huntsville) before transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for his senior season. He signed with Tennessee in the late signing period in 2016, shortly after Rick Barnes was hired as the Vols’ head coach.
“I don’t know that we had scholarships available at that point,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson recalled. “Sometimes in recruiting, it takes two to tango.
“He’s outstanding. He shoots the 3-pointer. He puts a lot of strain on your defense. He’s the guy that can get his show during the time on the clock that we call ‘showtime.” He’s a problem in terms of trying to get him under control and I’m sure that, coming back to Alabama, he’s going to be fired up.”
He’s part of a Tennessee team that Johnson calls “one of the hottest teams in the country,” an opinion that numerous national observers share. Two national publications posted articles on Friday outlining how the Vols, winners of nine of their last 10 games, could earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament next month.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.