Riley Norris is ready to make the transition from the longest game of the Alabama basketball year to the biggest.
Norris, the fourth-overtime hero in Alabama’s 90-86 marathon win over No. 19 South Carolina on Tuesday, joined his teammates in quick recuperation – including some intravenous fluids on Wednesday – but realizes there is no more rest with No. 15 Kentucky coming to Coleman Coliseum. That matchup may require even more energy from the Crimson Tide’s junior guard than his 46-minute effort against the Gamecocks.
The Crimson Tide (14-9, 7-4 SEC) takes on Kentucky (19-5, 9-2 SEC) on Saturday at noon in Coleman Coliseum. The game will be televised by CBS.
“We got home a little after midnight,” Norris said at Alabama’s Friday media opportunity. “That was the most I’d ever played in a game, by far. It wasn’t like we couldn’t walk or anything, just a little tired. But there were some fans waiting for us at the airport when we got back to Tuscaloosa. I’ve seen that maybe twice in the whole time I’ve been here.”
Norris recorded his first double-double of the season in the win, scoring 11 points (with six coming in the final overtime) and grabbing 14 rebounds. He also had the unenviable job of guarding South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell for the latter part of the game.
“He’s a really tough player but it’s something I can learn from,” Norris said. “The whole game was an experience we can learn from. You’ve got to have a mindset that you’re going to win. Whatever we did against South Carolina, now we’ve got to carry that forward. We know what’s at stake.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari also had his media availability on Friday and said his team was on “the right path” after its 92-85 win over LSU on Tuesday. The Wildcats has been in a slump (by Kentucky standards) before that, losing three of its previous four games including an 88-66 blowout at Florida last Saturday.
“We were better (against LSU),” Calipari said. “But when it takes you three weeks to get to a point, it takes time out of it because you’re trying to develop new habits.
“We’re fine on offense. But we’ve got to get back to having a defensive presence.”
Calipari was also complimentary of Alabama in his Friday remarks.
“They’ll probably go at us like Florida did,” Calipari said. “‘Let’s go right at them, let’s punch them in the mouth. Let’s shoot balls and forget about missing, just shoot them and we’ll go rebound them. Let’s move the ball a little bit, make them stay in a stance longer, see what they do, throw them into some pick and rolls.’ They’ll probably go off that game plan. Hopefully, we’re a little different team than from that game down there (at Florida.)”
“It’s unusual for me to tell you that South Carolina got beat to all the 50/50 balls, but they did…and it shows me the Alabama’s going to fight, they’re going to battle,” Calipari said. “They do a lot of isolation post-ups because their guards are 6-7, 6-8. When they shoot, they’re going to send four guys to the rim. If we don’t rebound, it’s going to be ugly. If we do, then we can fly.”
Alabama coach Avery Johnson said on Friday Kentucky “has a seven or eight-man rotation that is probably the best in the country. They will be the fastest team from Point A to Point B that we have seen.
“What I want to see is whether we are going to be the hunter or the hunted.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.