Alabama to Play Host to Tennessee, Coming Off Tough Loss to LSU
Tuesday night, the Crimson Tide will take on the Tennessee Volunteers in a match-up of two struggling teams looking to make a push just before the halfway point of SEC play.
The Volunteers' most important recruit last year wasn't a player, but their new head coach, Rick Barnes. We all remember his days at the University of Texas, leading the Longhorns to 14 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and coaching current NBA stars Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustin, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Tristan Thompson. It's been a rough season so far for the Vols, but they are coming off a nice win over the South Carolina Gamecocks by a score of 78-69, led by outstanding senior guard Kevin Punter's 36 points.
Punter has been one of the elite scorers in the country so far, averaging 23.3 points/game (7th in the nation), shooting 49.1% from the field, and 40.1% from beyond the arc. However, he's been much more than that for the Vols. Punter has also been great on the defensive end of the court, averaging 1.5 steals/game. Shutting him down isn't really an option, so containing him will be Alabama's best option if they want to send the Vols back to Knoxville with their tenth loss of the season.
The Tide were able to "contain" All-America candidate Ben Simmons this past weekend (23 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) as they dropped a tough loss to the LSU Tigers 72-70, but when a team has a player like that, you just have to let them get their's and shut down the rest of the team. Alabama wasn't able to do that against the Bayou Bengals, as five Tigers scored in double digits, so shutting down the rest of the Volunteers team will be integral for Alabama to earn their second SEC win of the season.
Retin Obasohan and Arthur Edwards have been the production leaders for the Tide over the past few games, and Alabama will need the same kind of output from each of them in this game. Also, Shannon Hale hasn't had a great game since conference play started (he had 13 points twice, but his shooting percentage in those two games was 40% and 21.4% from the three point line), so head coach Avery Johnson and company will need him to start producing more, and doing so quickly, if they have any aspirations of post-season play.