Alabama vs. Arizona
When: Noon, Sunday
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 5-3, Arizona 7-2
Radio: 95.3 FM
At some point prior to Sunday’s Alabama-Arizona basketball game, several Crimson Tide players will renew acquaintances with Wildcat point guard Justin Coleman.
After that, Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson might like his roster to renew acquaintances with each other as well. Alabama is trying to break a two-game losing streak, a slump Johnson has attributed, at least in part, to a lack of communication.
“One of the points of emphasis in practice (since Tuesday’s loss to Georgia Southern) has been that there are times in games when you have to communicate with your teammates,” Johnson said at his Friday press conference. “You just have to. If someone is dribbling up the floor and you see a defender coming up from behind to steal the ball, you have to communicate. I can give you a million examples. We’ve had this problem in the past couple of years but this team really (doesn’t) talk. They’re just too quiet.”
That was especially evident in the second half of the Georgia Southern loss as the Panthers outscored Alabama 52-28. A number of factors contributed to the loss, including what was probably the worst game of sophomore Herb Jones’ career (one point in 29 minutes on 0-for-6 shooting from the floor, 1-for-6 shooting from the line and four personal fouls).
Jones’ defensive prowess will be needed against a balanced Arizona team that is off to a 7-2 start (the only losses coming to top-10 teams Gonzaga and Auburn in the Maui Invitational) in what may be one of Sean Miller’s best coaching jobs to date. Sophomore Brandon Randolph leads the team in scoring (17.1 ppg) but three other starters average in double figures.
Freshman point guard Kira Lewis leads Alabama at 14.8 points per game, although Johnson said he is looking for more leadership from upperclassmen.
“We’ve had guys saying since the (NCAA) Tournament that they wanted to play a bigger role,” Johnson said. “Well, this is their chance.”
Coleman, who signed with Alabama coach Anthony Grant in 2014 after a storied career at Wenonah High School in Birmingham, played two years with the Crimson Tide, then transferred to Samford for two years (including a redshirt season) before moving on to Arizona as a graduate transfer for 2018-19. He is currently averaging 11.8 points per game as a starter for the Wildcats.
“Justin is a terrific young man, a high character kid,” Johnson said. I really enjoyed my year working with him. He was playing 25 minutes a game so it wasn’t a decision we wanted but we understood that he wanted to go back and finish his career in Birmingham. We were a little surprised that he didn’t stay (at Samford) but this opportunity came and he has made the most of it. He’s a quality young man.”
Said Coleman at Arizona’s Friday press conference, “I feel like I’ve been away from home for a while. I’m excited to see my mom, my little brother, my grandparents and some of my closest friends. But I also have the opportunity to play against a lot of guys that I played at Alabama with, like Donta Hall and Dazon Ingram. I’ve been knowing John Petty since the seventh grade. A lot of those guys on the team, I have a good relationship with. So to be able to play on the court with them will be a blessing.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225