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November 4, 2009
Grant's debut more than whets appetites of fans
TUSCALOOSA _ Welcome to run-and-press basketball.
Although the University of Alabama tried to give fans as sort of basketball smorgasbord Wednesday night, with an exhibition doubleheader and the unveiling of the new amenities of Coleman Coliseum, the 10,245 fans were instead treated to an entree that they could really sink their teeth into thanks to Anthony Grant.
Granted, it wasn't an official game, but like with any good meal the dominating 81-53 victory against Montevallo clearly left them filled but wanting more.
"This game, I challenged our guys to come out and try to play to our identity in terms of the things that we worked on, the way we want to defend, and from an offensive standpoint pushing the pace of the game and play at a tempo that we want to try and create," Grant said.
"I thought there were some good things that we did today, some things we can definitely get better at."
Although the Crimson Tide went 11 deep, with all but one player getting at least 10 minutes of action, sophomore forward JaMychal Green led Alabama with 18 points, all in the second half, and 11 rebounds, while four other players reached double-digits in scoring.
Junior forward Justin Knox was a rebound short of a double-double with 13 points, while senior point guard Mikhail Torrance scored 12, junior-college transfer Charvez Davis netted 11 and junior guard Senario Hillman had 10.
"Second half I was more aggressive and had my head right," Green said.
"The first half he had some opportunities where we didn't do a very good job getting the ball inside (to him)," Grant said. "I think the excitement of the game early, we took some ill-advised shots from the perimeter."
But what really stood out wasn't Alabama's offense, rather the smoothing defense and chaotic pressure. With senior guard Anthony Brock grabbing five steals, Montevallo shot just 28.1 percent (9-of-32) in the first half, and finished at 33.3 percent (19 of 57). Except for Freddy Little's 17 points, no one else scored more than nine and the Falcons were out-rebounded 47-31.
The Tide also forced 20 turnovers and scored 24 points off of them.
"I thought there was an understanding in terms of as of what I wanted in an effort standpoint," Grant said.
On the flip side, the Tide had 22 turnovers, which Torrance said was in part due to trying to do too much and forcing things.
"It's a learning experience," he said. "We're still in the process of trying to get better."
Also refreshing for Alabama fans was that except for two early calls against Green no one got into foul trouble. The bench had a 37-12 scoring advantage, and the Tide shot 79 percent from the free-thrown line (15-of-19) in the second half and 66.7 percent overall (24-of-36).
As for the improvements to Coleman, most fans appeared pleased with the new scoreboard and video boards, although some of the seat assignments will take some adjusting.
"Any time you put more students next to the floor it adds to the excitement," Grant said.
"It's really changed a lot in the last four or five years, all for the better," said women's coach Wendell Hudson, who couldn't help but think of what the facilities were like when he was a player. "It's really great to be back here."
Women: North Alabama 68, Alabama 67
Niala Harris' drive to the basket with three seconds remaining gave North Alabama the victory after Alabama otherwise led the entire second half.
Junior forward Tierney Jenkins led the Tide with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while junior-college transfer LaToya King had 14 points and four assists in her unofficial debut.
"This was an exhibition game, but I definitely want to win every game that we can win," Hudson said. "We shot the ball 79 times. That's something I want the team to continue to do. If we had shot a better percentage than what we shot, then the game is over."
Alabama led by as many as 17 points in the second half, but UNA made 25 of 32 free throws and hit seven 3-point shots to close and tie the game with 5:28 remaining. Meanwhile, the Tide made just 1 of 11 3-point attempts and 12 of 23 free throws.
"We can't play a team by their name, we need to play them the same as anybody else," Jenkins said.
"We're going to keep shooting," King said. "Hopefully they're going to fall."
Five North Alabama players finished in double figures led by Lacy Lewis and Sanqueeta Meardith with 14 points each. Meanwhile, the Tide used 12 players but not sophomore guard Ericka Russell.
"We tried a lot of combinations today," Hudson said. "We didn't play as well as we needed to play."