Trying To Bounce Back

Trevor Releford (12) runs the fastbreak against Georgetown.

Bouncing back is something that Anthony Grant’s teams at Alabama haven’t had to do too often over the past year. The Crimson Tide has had a very good stretch that has seen numerous victories, and very few defeats. But on Wednesday, the young Crimson Tide team will seek to rebound after a tough loss to Georgetown this past Thursday. The Hoyas beat the Tide 57-55 on a last second three-point jumper by Hollis Thompson with 1.8 remaining in the game. The Tide fought hard to get back to that point, and led by one point, 55-54 with 12.7 remaining, but in the end it wasn’t enough.

The Tide will play their first game since that loss tonight in Dayton, Ohio against the Dayton Flyers – which happens to be Anthony Grant’s alma mater. Grant played at Dayton from 1983-1987, and was coached by Dan Hipsher. Oddly enough, Hipsher is one of Grant’s assistants at Alabama. (Hipsher coached at Dayton from 1981-1989.)

Dayton (5-3) enters tonight’s game on the heels of two straight losses. The Flyers lost on 11/30 to Buffalo 55-84, and on 12/4 to Murray State 58-75. Before that, though, Dayton reeled off four straight wins, including victories over Wake Forest and Tubby Smith’s Minnesota team. By beating Minnesota the Flyers won the Old Spice Classic. Since then, however, the team’s production has declined greatly.

The Flyers are led in scoring by junior Kevin Dillard (6’0, G). Dillard is averaging 12.4 points per game and 5.1 assists per game, and is scoring 17.58% of the team’s points. Behind him is Josh Benson (6’9, F) who is averaging 11.4 points per game. Benson is responsible for amassing 16.16% of the team’s scoring this season. Chris Johnson (6’6, F) is third on the team averaging 10.5 points per game, and 5.5 rebounds per game. Johnson was on Dayton the last time the Flyers made the NCAA Tournament in 2009, and made a huge impact in their first-round win over West Virginia when the he scored 27 points. As a team the Flyers are averaging 70.4 points per game while allowing 66.6 points per game

Dayton’s RPI stacks up better than six of Alabama’s other opponents – 63. The Flyers are ranked 53rd in terms of Strength of Schedule. Alabama’s RPI dropped from 4 to 8th overall after last Thursday’s loss.

As a team the Flyers are shooting 44.1% from the field overall. Dayton particularly excels from the free-throw line as they are first in the Atlantic 10, and 19th overall in America shooting 75.5% from the free-throw line.

Dayton has a season average of about 60 possessions per game, and they score 1.03 points per possession while holding opponents to .96 points per possession.

Alabama comes into tonight’s game with pretty solid statistics as well. The Tide did a fantastic job of defending against a very good Georgetown team in their last game, but found themselves behind and struggling because they simply weren’t aggressive enough against the zone. For years now teams have plagued the Crimson Tide by switching to a zone defense – usually after halftime. However, it’s evident that John Thompson III realized the Tide was deficient in this area as he had his team play zone against the Tide early on in the game. It will be interesting to see if Dayton’s Head Coach Archie Miller has his team play man-to-man defense to begin the game against the Tide, or if they come out immediately and try to get Alabama off balance on the road by playing zone. Thankfully they Tide know what they have to do as a team to be successful against the zone, now, but it’s just a matter of executing.

Alabama is still holding opponent’s to a pretty low percentage shooting from the floor. The Tide is holding teams to a 33.3 FG%. That number is good enough for fifth in the nation, and second in the SEC. The Tide is holding teams to a 37.8 2FG% (two-point field goal percentage), which is good enough for 10th in the nation, and second in the SEC. The Crimson Tide is also defending the three-point arc very well, too. They are only allowing teams to shoot 24.5% from distance on the season. This is good enough for 14th in the nation and first in the conference. The Tide will have to be on top of this area tonight, because Dayton shoots 34% from beyond the arc, and above 50% from inside the arc.

The Crimson Tide’s non-conference schedule this season is everything that it was not last season. This game, while Dayton isn’t going to jump off of the page at you, is a very tough game and one that Alabama will want to have won when March rolls around. Dayton is 1-1 against teams with an RPI of 1-25, and their RPI will only include to improve if the teams they played earlier this season continue to succeed. For Alabama’s sake, this is something that absolutely must occur.

Anthony Grant’s homecoming in Dayton is something he’s undoubtedly looked forward to for a while now. It will be interesting to see how the game plays out, but Alabama should be able to play stifling enough defensively to create good looks on the other end and win this game. Dayton hasn’t played a team with a mentality on defense like Alabama. If the Tide responds well to the loss against Georgetown, and learn from it like Anthony Grant discussed after the loss then the Tide should return to Tuscaloosa victorious on Thursday.

    Who: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Dayton Flyers
    When: December 7th, 6:00 P.M. CT.
    Where: Dayton, Ohio @ UD Arena