Alabama vs. Ole Miss
When: Thursday, 6 p.m. CT
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Records: Alabama (17-14, 8-10 SEC), Ole Miss (20-10, 10-8 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 95.3 FM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For all the discussion about what might happen down the road for the Alabama basketball team, head coach Avery Johnson isn’t looking past the Crimson Tide’s first game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday night.
He isn’t looking past the first half, either. In fact, if the game against Ole Miss tips off at 6 p.m. as scheduled, Johnson isn’t looking past 6:05.
“That first four minutes of the game, what we call ‘war,’ what’s going to be our mindset?” Johnson said in his pregame comments on Monday. “Are we going to leave guys open that we don’t want shooting 3s? Are we going to give up offensive rebounds? Are we going to run with a serious Alabama basketball pace, or are we going to walk the ball up the floor?
“Are (our) guys going to be highly motivated to play in the game?”
That’s been an issue for the Crimson Tide, which brings a three-game losing streak into the SEC Tournament. Not even a chance to solidify an NCAA Tournament berth seemed to light a fire under Alabama over the past month, so Johnson says he is going to turn to more direct methods.
“We have resolved that (motivation) by ‘come and have a seat next to me on the bench,’ ” Johnson said. “Sometimes we have tried to let kids play through their mistakes and that hasn’t really worked very well. Part of it is let’s let the bench do some talking to you. We’ll coach you up and we’ll get you back in the game, but we just cannot have multiple mistakes on the court and the reward be one of our players still be on the court.”
Alabama has certainly shown it can compete well against Ole Miss, one of the SEC’s surprise teams this season and the No. 7 seed in the league tournament. The Crimson Tide pounded the Rebels 74-53 in January, thanks largely to dominating the backboards (44-32) and limiting its turnovers (to nine, compared to 16 for the Rebels.) As a result, Alabama attempted 15 more shots and eight more free throws on its way to victory.
The winner of Thursday night’s game will play No. 2 seed Kentucky on Friday.
Daniel Giddens, who had seen increased playing time late in the season before suffering a hand injury in Alabama’s loss to Auburn in its home finale, will not be available for the Ole Miss game, Johnson said. Gidden’s injured hand is currently in a cast but is bruised, not broken, per Alabama coach Avery Johnson.
Dazon Ingram, who has been hampered by a bruised thigh for over two weeks and who did not play in Alabama’s regular-season finale against Arkansas, will be a game-time decision on Thursday, Johnson said.