The Alabama men’s basketball team is known for its stifling defense, but its recent decline in shooting efficiency has turned the attention toward the offense, or lack thereof.
The Crimson Tide (16-8, 8-3 SEC) extended its poor shooting streak as it escaped Athens, Ga., with a 52-45 victory over the Georgia Bulldogs Tuesday. Alabama shot 38.8 percent (19-49) from the floor, while converting 33.3 percent (6-18) of its 3-point attempts.
Head coach Anthony Grant said he is fine with the shots not falling, as long as they’re not wasted opportunities.
“I’ve got all the confidence in our guys, as long as we take good ones,” Grant said. “I told them to stay aggressive. I thought we got a lot of good looks tonight. But we’re going to get on a roll where shots are falling for us. We’ve struggled offensively, but we’ve done really well on the defensive end, and that’s carried us through.”
However, the thorn in the Tide’s side was – and has been – the free-throw line. Alabama has struggled to make one, if any, of its free throws when it steps up to the line in recent games.
When Alabama faced LSU on Feb. 9, the Tide completed an abysmal 60.6 percent (20-33) of its free throws. Against Georgia, its percentage from the line was even worse at 57.1 percent (8-14).
Junior guard Trevor Releford boasts an 83 percent average from the charity stripe on the season. But even the efficient point guard has shot a poor percentage recently after being fouled. In the past two games Releford has only converted 58.3 (7-12) percent of his free throw attempts.
Grant said the team must stay in attack mode and not let the missed shots lower team morale. He expects them to break this shooting slumber soon and get back to shooting at a higher percentage.
The end of the Georgia game may have been the fire under the basketball that the Tide needed. With less than two and a half minutes left in the second half, Levi Randolph drained a 3-pointer to reclaim the lead. After a defensive rebound on the other end, Rodney Cooper made another 3-pointer to muzzle the Bulldogs and coast to a much-needed win. Could this be a sign of things to come?
If Alabama were to get hot on offense, now would be the perfect time. Three of its next four contests will be at Coleman Coliseum and against the Southeastern Conference’s bottom three teams: South Carolina (2-8), Mississippi State (2-8) and Auburn (3-7). The Tide holds a 10-3 record at home this season.
But Grant said the shots will fall. Until then, Alabama will stick to its defense and ability to stay in games.
“It’s about winning,” Grant said. “My whole thing with our guys is to trust your preparation. These guys work hard. They’re good players. They work on their shooting.
“We struggled; there’s no secret. We struggled shooting the basketball. I believe it’s going to turn around for us.”
Leading in today’s Crimson White: