On Saturday at halftime against Florida, something in Alabama’s locker room changed. The Crimson Tide were only down six, but it felt like it could have been much more. Alabama lacked energy much like it did in its previous game against Missouri.
Alabama needed a spark, and it got one in junior center Donta Hall. Hall challenged his team in the locker room after head coach Avery Johnson gave his speech. The challenge worked, and Alabama blew out Florida in the second half to earn its fourth win over a ranked opponent.
All season, Hall’s energy in the locker room helps Alabama fight complacency.
“Because of the setup at Florida, Donta proceeded to follow up on what we shared with the team and it was fun to hear,” Johnson said on Monday. “He’s one of our captains and that’s something that the really good teams- the teams that are really special- they have lieutenants and generals all along the roster, and not just a bunch of followers.”
Hall challenged his team, and he answered the call himself. He scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He went 7-for-7 from the field.
His play inside gave Alabama a second scoring option outside of guard Collin Sexton. Guards John Petty and Herb Jones were off that day, and Alabama needed all of the production it could get from Hall.
“I knew I had to step up because I was playing kind of down,” Hall said. “I just felt like with me bringing my energy, getting the rest of the team involved it would help.”
Hall brings the same energy on the court as he does off it. He makes plays that send a spark through his team. Time after time, he will swat a defender’s shot into the stands or rock the rim with a two-handed dunk.
Those plays shift momentum and give Alabama new life.
“It really turns it up a lot,” guard Avery Johnson Jr said. “Especially because he has really good hands and we find him drives in the lane, hit him in the pocket. He’s really good at finishing.”
Hall will need that same kind of energy if Alabama wants to avoid another hangover against Mississippi State. This is the second time that Mississippi State is getting Alabama after the Crimson Tide defeated a ranked opponent. The Crimson Tide defeated Mississippi State, 68-62, on Jan.20 three days after Alabama knocked off No. 8 Auburn.
The short road trip to Starkville will give Alabama a chance to find consistency- something the team has struggled with this season.
“People pay for consistency, and we haven’t earned anything,” Johnson said. “We have to play like we’re hunters. We have to get out there and play with a passion. We can’t basically slide or glide into the game. This is not the Electric Slide. We’ve got to play ball.”
It will also be the first time Alabama rematches a team in the SEC. Sexton- Alabama’s leading scorer- missed the first game because of an abdominal injury. While the injury only kept him out of two games, it still lingers around.
Johnson gave an update on where the issue stands with Sexton. He said it’s not an injury that just goes away. He will have to deal with it for the rest of the season.
“I think it’s going to be something he’ll be managing all year,” the older Johnson said. “Whenever you’re talking about an abdominal injury, I don’t think it actually gets to a point where it’s 100 percent until you’re able to rest it for maybe a 4- or 6-week period after the season.”
Alabama and Mississippi State will tip off at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports