Hard work is supposed to pay dividends. Alabama and Texas A&M played tough in difficult road games Saturday, but came out on the wrong end of scores. The Crimson Tide fought back from a big deficit, but came up short in an 88-79 game at Baton Rouge. The Aggies had the always difficult task of going into Rupp Arena in Lexington and fell to Kentucky, 85-74.
Expect two hard-working teams when Alabama hosts Texas A&M in Coleman Coliseum at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday. SEC Network will televise the game.
Alabama is now 10-4 overall and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference games after having its five-game winning streak snapped by LSU, while the Aggies are 6-7, including 0-2 in the league.
Alabama Coach Avery Johnson thinks that Alabama has shown improvement in areas this year, particularly in having an offense in which scoring is spread around more than it was a year ago when Collin Sexton – in his one season before leaving for the NBA – was often a one-man band. Not that Johnson wouldn’t be happy to have a Collin Sexton every year, but he does believe that it is harder to scout Alabama this year.
The Tide coach said there were “correctable” deficiencies in Bama’s loss at LSU. He said that the Tigers were “more energized” and that Alabama’s “level of consistent toughness was not where it needed to be. It took too long to get into that game.”
He also lamented poor ball movement, trips where the Tide had only one pass or perhaps no passes.
Alabama continues to be led by true freshman point guard Kira Lewis, Jr., averaging 14.8 points per game (and also leading the Tide in assists at 2.9 per contest). Senior post Donta Hall is averaging 10.8 ppg and also leads Bama in rebounding at 8.1 per game.
Bama’s lineup has been a deep one with occasional changes in the starting five, but as of late it has been soph Herbert Jones (7.7 ppg and 4.8 rpg) and either junior Dazon Ingram (7.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg) or soph John Petty, Jr., (10.6 ppg) on the wings. Junior Tevin Mack 9.6 ppg) has been at the forward spot recently.
Also seeing regular action are graduate forward Riley Norris (5.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg), soph forward Alex Reese (7.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg), soph post Galin Smith (3.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg), and graduate point guard Avery Johnson, Jr. ((1.4 ppg). In Bama’s last game, 6-11, 247-pound post Daniel Giddens made his first appearance in a few weeks and had a productive outing.
The Aggies are guard-oriented, led by sophomore TJ Starks at 14.5 points and 3.8 assists per game. Swing player Savion Flagg averages 12.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg with guard Jay Jay Chandler adding 8.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, guard Wendell Mitchell 8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, and graduate transfer post 6-8, 245-pound Christian Mekowulu 9.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 1.2 blocked shots per game.
In the Aggies’ 11 non-conference games this year, Coach Billy Kennedy’s team had seven different players take game scoring honors.
Although A&M has several new faces in its lineup, Johnson said the Tide is aware of the ability of Starks and Flagg to score.
The Aggies have been a very good rebounding team this year, averaging 40.5 per game, including averaging 13 offensive boards.
Johnson said, “We pride ourselves on rebounding,” and said it would be a key Saturday.
The last meeting between the two came in last year’s SEC Championship Tournament as Tide guard Collin Sexton went coast-to-coast for the winning basket at the buzzer for the Tide 71-70 win. Alabama leads the series 11-7.
Alabama was a 79-57 winner in the last meeting in Tuscaloosa to open last season.
Bama and the Aggies meet again this year on Feb. 19 in College Station.
Following the A&M game, Alabama will be on the road for games at Missouri Wednesday and Tennessee Saturday, Jan. 19. The Tide returns home to face Ole Miss on Jan. 22.