By Chris DePew
March 15, 2016
Alabama’s first season under Avery Johnson ended with a thud, as the Crimson Tide was held to 19 points in the first half and never seriously threatened host Creighton after that in a 72-54 loss in the opening round of the NIT.
What did we learn today?: Johnson needs to find scoring help – and lots of it – on the recruiting trail. The worst scoring team in the SEC scored under its already-meager 66.8 points per game average in seven of its final eight contests. He had to ditch his plans for an uptempo attack before conference play even began due to injuries and the reality of insufficient talent. It all came to a head with Tuesday’s listless performance in Omaha. No player shot better than 40 percent from the field and as a team Bama was a puny 28.3 percent and struggled to reach nine assists. Mostly it settled for 3-pointers of dubious quality, eking out eight on 31 attempts. Alabama loses only two seniors, but returns no reliable scorers and few players who seem likely to thrive if Johnson tries again to go uptempo next season. The first-year coach pointedly noted in his postgame radio interview that he isn’t done recruiting for this class and it seems almost inevitable that some current players with eligibility left may move on as Johnson seeks better fits, whether from high schoolers, junior college players or on the graduate transfer market.
What were the biggest concerns?: Justin Coleman got on a hot streak in the second half with three consecutive 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 18 points, but before that he had a brutal shooting night and far more attempts than is healthy given his role and limitations. He went 6-for-15 from the floor and only managed two assists. Normal bell cow Retin Obasohan had a forgettable final game, ending with a quiet 13 points on 3-for-10 shooting as the Bluejays swarmed him all night. And those were the best two scorers for the Crimson Tide. Nobody else made more than two field goals. Losing the battle on the glass by a dozen rebounds was disappointing but sadly familiar.
What was the best part of the game?: It didn’t feel like much of a bright spot given its own scoring futility, but Alabama did a solid job on defense in the first half. Creighton averages a shade under 80 points per game but the Jays only got 30 in the first half and shot just under 43 percent. Bama didn’t foul much and got seven of its 12 steals before halftime to stay within shouting distance despite missing 17 of its last 19 field goals to end the half.
Who was the star?: Coleman led the scoring but Donta Hall did a little bit of everything. The freshman had eight rebounds, three steals, five points and five of Bama’s seven blocked shots. After becoming a regular rotation player straight out of tiny Luverne High, a full offseason in a college weight and training program has the potential to benefit him more than anyone on the roster.
What’s next?: The spring signing period begins April 13. Fall practice will begin sometime in October and the first day of the 2016-17 regular season is November 11.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris