Alabama wraps up regular season on the road against TennesseeBy Tyler Waldrep | 03/03/2017 9:45pm
Less than a month ago, Alabama’s Braxton Key was one of seven freshman in the country leading his team in both scoring and rebounding. That was never going to last though, not once senior Bola Olaniyan got going.
“It’s just crazy. He [Olaniyan] gets every rebound,” Key said. “He took some of my rebounds the last couple games. I should’ve had [a] double-double, but it’s fine.”
Wednesday night against Ole Miss was no different for the senior who grabbed a game-high 10 boards in his final regular season game inside Coleman Coliseum.
Sending Alabama’s rebounding machine, Olaniyan, and fellow seniors Corban Collins and Jimmie Taylor out on Senior Night with a 70-55 win over the Rebels meant a lot to Alabama coach Avery Johnson.
“This is one of the highlights of coaching,” Johnson said. “...[At the end of the game] I just wanted them to gather at halfcourt and do something a little bit different. Let them stand together arm in arm together and let the fans celebrate them as the clock rolled out. Because it’s been such a privilege coaching those three young men.”
While the Crimson Tide (17-12, 10-7 Southeastern conference) was busy honoring the seniors, it was a pair of freshmen that led Alabama to the victory that clinched a No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament.
“When those guys [Key and Dazon Ingram] are clicking it helps us because they both have tremendous size, they’re very unselfish, sometimes too unselfish,” Johnson said. “...Now the way he [Ingram] is confident with shooting the basketball, we don’t win at Missouri if Dazon doesn’t get hot in the second half, but guess who was passing him the ball Braxton.”
Key finished Wednesday’s game second in scoring (19 points), behind Ingram’s career-high 22-point performance, but he was quick to pass credit back to the rest of his teammates. On Friday morning he said the defense set him and Ingram up for easy baskets at times.
He also credited the sudden offensive success with his head coach’s involvement in Monday’s practice.
“His big thing was he [Johnson] was the biggest talker on the court and he’s at least like 50, 51 and he’s one of the better players because he’s communicating,” Key said.
Alabama will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday to wrap up the regular season against a Tennessee (15-15, 7-10 SEC) squad that dropped four of its last five games. Alabama’s five road victories in SEC play is currently tied for the second-most this season and is the most the program has won since 2004-05.
Should it defeat the Volunteers, then Alabama will finish the regular season with six road SEC wins for the first time since 1994-95, but Johnson isn’t worried with records as much as he is with entering the SEC Tournament with continued growth and momentum.
“I don’t see a team in our league this year that can just basically show up and win the tournament,” Johnson said. “Everybody’s going to have to be on top of their game the way the conference play has gone this year.”