Alabama coach Avery Johnson’s plan for Alabama’s showdown with fourth seeded South Carolina was simple.
“I didn’t give them a fire and brimstone speech,” Johnson said. “Rebound or lose.”
His players heard him. The Crimson Tide grabbed 42 rebounds and held the Gamecocks to a season-low 27 in Alabama’s 64-53 victory.
“You go play Alabama and have a chance to win, you got to have some dog in you,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “We had a little puppies out there today.”
On Thursday against Mississippi State, Alabama’s scoring leader (freshman Braxton Key) struggled offensively, but roared back to life against the Gamecocks (22-10, 12-6 SEC). He finished with a game-high 18 points and grabbed seven boards (more than all other players except teammate Bola Olaniyan who finished with 10).
Key finished six of eight from the field, but he wasn’t the only Alabama player to knock down big shots for the Crimson Tide (19-13, 10-8 SEC). Junior Riley Norris knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
“We showed him [Norris] a couple things at halftime and I thought he forced a couple [in the first half],” Johnson said. “And we told him to just be a little more patient because his teammates are going to find him and he trusted his teammates.”
Norris and his teammates will return to the court on Friday at 1 p.m. CT to take on top seed Kentucky (27-5, 16-2 SEC) for a chance to advance to the SEC Championship.
The win gives Alabama two wins in the SEC Tournament for the first time since the 2001-02 season when it also defeated South Carolina. It also ensured the Crimson Tide will end the season with at least one more win than the program finished with in Johnson’s first year.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports