The University of Alabama basketball team has few illusions about its situation as it hosts Florida Tuesday night in a game that could have a strong bearing on the post-season future of both squads.
“Our backs are to the wall,” said sophomore guard Dazon Ingram.
“We don’t want to treat them like babies,” Alabama coach Avery Johnson said when asked if he had talked about post-season ramifications with his team. “We’ve had that conversation.”
The Crimson Tide’s strength of schedule and quality wins that include Auburn, Tennessee, Rhode Island and a road win at Florida have given UA a good NCAA resume, but a current three-game losing streak, including a Saturday home loss against Arkansas, has stalled Alabama’s momentum.
“It was a low-rated game for us, defensively,” Johnson said of the Arkansas loss. “We haven’t been our usual selves on defense the last three games. We’re giving up too many points, teams are shooting too high a percentage against us. We’ve got to get back to the way we were playing defense earlier.”
That will include some technical adjustments, but Johnson said the change Alabama needs most is more elemental: the Crimson Tide, he says, needs to show more “old-fashioned fight.”
“Fighting can (mean) playing harder and smarter,” Johnson said. “If you have 18 turnovers, are you fighting? It’s not about just running up the court faster. That’s great,bu fighting is … winning the rebounding game? What about taking care of the ball?
“Our last two games, we were down big early. We can’t do that. That’s not fighting to me.”
The best example in Alabama’s season was probably the second half of its earlier win against Florida in Gainesville. The Crimson Tide outscored the Gators 40-17 in that 20 minutes en route to a 68-50 win, holding Florida to 33 percent shooting for the game.
“Florida shoots it really well from the 3-point line,” Johnson said . “You’ve got to keep (Kevaughn) Allen and (Keith) Stone from creating space at the 3-point line. We’re going to have to make up significant ground on the backboards.
“In the first game, we didn’t get broken down on the dribble. In the second half offensively, we had pretty good balance and that let us get our defense set.
“But they are another tough, experienced team coming in. It’s dog-eat-dog in this conference.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.