16 November 2008
Alabama dropped their regular season opener to Mercer, 72-69 before a sparse crowd (paid attendance was announced at 8,960 but many season ticket holders were absent).
Here's what you need to know.
First, Mercer is a good basketball team. They play in a good conference - the Atlantic Sun. They went to USC a year ago and won. This is not a bad basketball team.
Alabama's season will live and die game to game on two things: rebounding and three point shooting. Too small to be a force inside, everyone will have to rebound well. Additionally, since the Tide is smaller, they'll need to knock down perimeter shots to have a chance against quality teams.
Tonight, Mercer out rebounded Alabama 56 to 38. Alabama shot 7 of 28 from three point range (25%).
When the Tide shoots 25% from long range, and gets out rebounded by 18, they'll lose 90% of the time.
Even on nights when the Tide forces 16 turnovers and only commits 6. Even on nights when Ronald Steele looks like Ronald Steele from 2005 and knocks down 25 (including six of our last 8). Even when our true freshman all high school everything superstar JaMychal Green goes for 17 points and 12 rebounds.
When Bama hits only a fourth of their three pointers and gets beat by a margin of that size on the boards, they'll lose. Early and often.
Steele and Green were the bright spots for the Tide. Alonzo Gee was particularly disappointing this evening, shooting 2 of 9 from the floor and only netting four points and three rebounds. Gee was especially tentative when facing far less athletic defenders that he could have easily taken on the dribble a year ago.
Senario Hillman was 1 of 9 from the floor, only dropping a single three pointer. Brandon Hollinger was only 1 of 7 and missed all 6 from long range.
For Mercer, James Florence puzzled Bama defenders all night long, knocking down 23 points, including 11 of 14 from the free throw line.
Florence is listed at 6'1" and he's not quite that tall. Granted, Florence drove the lane a good bit, but he was the darling of the officiating crew of Rick Crawford, John Cahill and Tony Turner. Turner and Cahill are both exceptionally poor officials. There were four jump balls in this game, including two on consecutive possessions when the contest looked destined to turn into a rugby match.
Those long periods of no-calls were mirrored by moments when the crew threatened to grind the game to a halt. Both teams were in the bonus at the 12 minute mark of the first half.
Finally, on Mercer's last trip up the floor, Alabama defended perfectly for more than 30 seconds, when Brandon Hollinger was called for a ticky-tack hand check that gave Florence his 12th and 13th free throws, and wound up putting Alabama in a three point hole - the final margin of the game.
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