The University of Alabama men’s basketball team will host Montevallo University in an exhibition game Tuesday night at 7 p.m. with two goals in mind.
Protect the basketball and change the conversation.
Accomplishing the first would likely go a long way in enacting the second of those objectives. The Crimson Tide had an NCAA-mandated “secret scrimmage” on Saturday morning, and while UA head coach Avery Johnson was not supposed to reveal any details, a surprising score — Jacksonville State 92, Alabama 66 — and some worrisome statistics (25 turnovers) made their way into the public domain.
“We definitely have a long way to go,” Johnson said on Monday. “We still have to establish an identity. In our first three years, we have been a defensive team. This year, we’re trying to be more balanced.
“We did a decent job rebounding, but we’ve got to take care of the ball,” Johnson added. “It’s all about ball security. Coach (Nick) Saban talks about not throwing interceptions. We throw too many of those.
“Tomorrow when the game is over, I want to know (that) we took care of the ball, that we defended the 3-point line and that we got some 50/50 balls, some long rebounds that can help us ignite our break. Players feel better about themselves when they don’t turn it over, because we’ll get more shots at the basket and we can get our defense set and be able to rebound the basketball.”
Johnson did not use a set lineup in the Jacksonville State scrimmage, preferring to look at all available players. No one got more than 26 minutes (forward Galin Smith, who scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting when Alabama was able to get the ball to him.) The Crimson Tide staff will likely look at the full roster against Montevallo, especially focusing on ball handlers: Dazon Ingram, Kyra Lewis, Avery Johnson Jr. and 6-foot-7 Herb Jones may all see time at point guard.
“We don’t have a rotation yet,” Johnson said. “I’m looking for performance. Whether you play five minutes, 12 minutes or 20 minutes, it’s about doing your job.”
“I think (Saturday) was a good wake-up call for us,” said Alabama guard Lawson Schaffer. “It was something we can learn from and I think it helped us kind of re-focus a little bit. I think we believe with the experience we’ve got back and the talent we’ve got back, that we’re going to get there (to the NCAA Tournament), but I think sometimes you just lose focus on that. It’s time to wake up. This isn’t summer workouts. This is real stuff now.”
Montevallo, coached by 16-year veteran Danny Young, finished 15-15 in NAIA play last season.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.