By (Matthew Speakman)

Senior Shannon Hale didn’t have the start to the 2016 season that he may have wanted, but in the team’s 77-59 win over Ball State, Hale bounced back to score 19 points and spark the Crimson Tide offense midway through the first half.

“That Shannon Hale is the one that we want to consistently see,” said coach Avery Johnson. “We liked that he had a consistent pattern of positive plays tonight. So, he’s capable of it no matter who the opponent is.”

Hale started the first game of the season, but was replaced by senior Bola Olaniyan in the starting lineup for the past two games. Hale has started several games for Alabama in his career, but said being moved to the bench didn’t shake his confidence.

“I don’t think that [lineup change] really affected me,” he said. “I am always motivated and I am always ready when I get in the game. So the lineup is just something where you gotta know your role.”

Even though he had more success on the court tonight, Hale said nothing really changed from the first two games. He said he felt the same way tonight as he does in most outings.

“I always feel comfortable,” Hale said. “My teammates were helping me get in the right spots. I took open shots. That was about it.”

Hale was not the only bench player to leave his mark on the victory. Both Ar’Mond Davis (17) and Avery Johnson Jr. (13) scored in double digits for Alabama. In a night where many of Alabama’s starters struggled, the team needed players on the bench to step up.

The bench did more than that and matched the Cardinals entire team with 59 points in the victory.

When Ball State went on a four-minute scoring drought, players like Davis and Hale started to blow the game wide open, and Alabama took a double digit lead. Aside from scoring in double-digits, Johnson Jr. also led the team in assists with six. Johnson Jr. said that a change in his pregame ritual helped him feel a little comfortable in tonight’s game.

“I took a pregame nap,” he said. “Usually I just stay up between shoot-around and pre-game meal time. I just turned my phone off and took a nap, so that kind of helped me calm my nerves.”

Johnson Jr. was one of four players to hit a 3-pointer in tonight’s victory. Overall, Alabama shot 52 percent from beyond the arc, and hit 12 3-pointers.

Teamwork and moving the ball around led to open shots for The Crimson Tide.

“I just think we had more open windows tonight because we made better decisions with the ball,” Johnson said. “We passed the ball on time and on target, and were able to have more efficiency from behind the 3-point line.”

Alabama’s ability to force turnovers proved to be key in its victory over the Cardinals. The Crimson Tide’s defense forced 21 turnovers that led to 26 points. At one point in the game, Ball State struggled to get the ball over half court, and that struggle led to easy baskets for Alabama.

Ball State head coach James Whitford said the high-intensity defense caught his team off guard.

“Their press was more aggressive,” Whitford said. “I was surprised. When they pressed Dayton, I thought Dayton hurt them. I did not anticipate that press giving us a lot of problems.”

Next, Alabama will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to take on Valparaiso in the MGM Grand Main Event tournament. That game will tipoff at 11 p.m. CT.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports