Offense shows signs of life in Avery Johnson's first collegiate win

Offense shows signs of life in Avery Johnson's first collegiate win
Robert Sutton Robert Sutton / Alabama Crimson White

20151113 MBB vs Kennesaw State Photo by Robert Sutton 20151113 MBB vs Kennesaw State Photo by Robert Sutton

On the surface, Alabama’s shooting performance in its 77-64 win Friday night was substandard. The team finished with 51 percent shooting from the field after an 11-for-25 second half, but from three, it went just 4-of-17, and its free throw shooting performance (15-27) was its worst since a 1-4 performance against South Carolina last season.

“We’re not going to overhype [the free throws]" Johnson said. “We’re just going to work on it, practice it. Our guys can make free throws. Arthur Edwards missed his first two free throws. He’s a guy we’re relying on to be an 85 percent plus free throw shooter. We’ve seen them make it in practice, I just think a little jitters there. Their confidence is still high. We’ll shoot a ton of free throws in practice on Sunday. I expect us to shoot free throws better and I expect us to shoot the three better. We’re not a 4-for-17 from three-point shooting team. We had some wide, wide open shots that I know we can take and make.”

On second glance, however, the offense is already showing evidence of the high-speed show that new coach Avery Johnson promised upon taking the job. Of the Crimson Tide’s 57 field goal attempts, just seven came in the inefficient midrange area, where it made just one basket. The rest came as three-point attempts, layups (22), or shots in the paint (15).

Retin Obasohan led the way offensively for the Crimson Tide with 18 points. Of his 10 shot attempts, two came as layups, three came in the paint, and three came from beyond the arc.

“It was a team effort,” Obasohan said. “Our guys did a great job of moving the ball and cutting hard, and whenever you do that the opposing team has to commit to it so that opened gaps that I had an opportunity to take advantage of. At the same time, those were the things you saw Dazon [Ingram, freshman point guard] doing. That’s just going to come with our offense. If everybody cuts hard and moves the ball, then things are going to open up for us.”

Center Jimmie Taylor opened the game with an aggressive post move to pick up a foul, but finished the night with just six points. Taylor attempted just four shots, stepped to the line six times, made two free throws, and finished with 10 rebounds in 25 minutes.

“We missed Jimmie a couple of times tonight,” Johnson said. “We made a concerted effort of trying to get him the ball, and their strategy was to foul him whenever he caught the ball. We think he’s going to continue to improve on his free throws... He just needs to go through his routine and trust it, but he did a great job of rebounding for us tonight.”

Alabama’s worst offensive stretch came at the start of the second half, when the Crimson Tide scored just nine points in five minutes, followed by a five point scoring drought. That allowed the Owls to cut the Crimson Tide’s lead, 43-32 at halftime, to single-digits at points.

“I think more than anything it’s just the things we didn’t do: coming out aggressive like we did in the first half,” Obasohan said. “That just comes with being a young team. We’ve got to realize that the first four in the first half, the first four in the second half, those are really important when it comes to setting the tone. I know going forward, that’s something that we’re going to work on.”

Kennesaw State combatted Alabama’s offense with a 2-3 zone that stymied Alabama’s shot availability, clogging the lanes and helping to keep Taylor quiet, before Alabama adjusted to it.

“One of the things that they decided to do was go to a matchup zone, and then go to a man-to-man on our first or second pass,” Johnson said. “In talking to the guys at halftime, we decided that our adjustment was going to be to run one of our man offensive plays. We weren’t going to run our zone offensive plays, because they would jump back into a zone. [Retin and Dazon] did a good job of reading those situations.”

Alabama travels to take on 2014 NCAA round-of-32 team Dayton on Tuesday before returning home on Friday to host to Louisiana-Lafayette.

“If you told me the rest of this year, we’re going to score 77-plus points per game and we’re going to shoot 51 percent from the field, I’ll sleep pretty good at night,” Johnson said. “For us to be competitive on the defensive end, with our defensive system and our gameplan and individual tendencies, that’s a step in the right direction for us.

“This was a night where we could easily have scored 90 points. It didn’t happen, but our guys, I think they’ll make it happen as we move on.”

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