TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Turnovers are an ugly word in basketball, but it’s especially true for the University of Alabama men’s basketball team after giving up 21 over the weekend at Auburn.
It’s been a point of emphasis at practice this week even though the Crimson Tide’s next opponent, Georgia has even more turnovers than Alabama this season.
“More than our team?” Coach Avery Johnson said when asked about it during his press conference Tuesday.
Through eight games of league play, Alabama has lost 104, for an average of 13 per game. Georgia has had 123, or 15.4 per game.
For the entire season, both teams have had more lost turnovers than their opponents, Alabama 283-257, while Georgia’s totals are 349-235.
“We weren’t very good on either end of the floor, but our lack of offensive execution, poor ball-handling, spacing, ball movement, decision making really stressed our defense and we were on our heels all night long,” Johnson said about the 84-63 loss at Auburn. “We couldn’t get our defense set, and when we did get it set we didn’t move well. Arguably, our worst performance of the year in an SEC game on the road.
“We have a lot of room for improvement.”
While Alabama (3-8 overall, 4-4 SEC) aims for some consistency, Georgia (10-11, 1-7) is looking to end a seven-game SEC skid and for its first road win since defeating Georgia Tech 70-59 on Dec. 22.
Here are five things to known about Wednesday's game (8 p.m. CT, SEC Network).
1] Rebounding will be a key stat: As Johnson noted, Alabama was developing a reputation for its rebounding until last week, when both Mississippi State and Auburn had an edge on the boards. Georgia leads the SEC in offensive rebounds and is second in rebounding margin at +6.1. In those same categories, Alabama is tied for third and at +5.3.
“We have to be ready to rebound,” the coach said. “Georgia has 44 offensive rebounds in their last two games.”
2] Georgia’s size will be an issue: This is a big team physically. Of the four players who average double digits in scoring, three are 6 foot 8 or taller. Sophomore center/forward Rayshaun Hammonds 12.9 points, 6.7 rebounds) leads the Bulldogs in scoring, while 6-11 sophomore forward Nicolas Claxton (12.7, 9.3) does in height.
The player off the bench to watch is 6-9 senior forward/guard Derek Ogbeide (10.0, 6.0). One of six left-handed players on the Georgia roster, he’s averaging a team-high 11.4 points and 61.3 shooting percentage in SEC play.
3] Yes, freshman guard Kira Lewis Jr. is getting bigger: The 17-year old point guard leads the Crimson Tide in scoring (13.8 points), and seems to be holding well to the rigors of the SEC schedule. “The kid is tough,” said senior center/forward Donta Hall, who also had to add weight after arriving in Tuscaloosa.
“I came in at maybe 185 pounds,” said Hall, who is listed as 6-9, 230 pounds. “ When he first got here he was just getting the meal plan. Me? I’m supposed to eat six times a day. With him it’s probably like five, just to get the weight on him. He was saying that it’s pretty hard for him to eat that much in a day because it’s something he’s not used to.”
4] Better? Hall told reporters on Tuesday that he believes the Crimson Tide is better than last year’s team at this point. Johnson sort of agreed with him. “We’re a much better offensive team,” the coach said. “Before these last couple of games we were an outstanding rebounding team, but we’ve had some slippage there. We’re a fast team, we’re one of the fastest teams in the SEC.”
5] Not a friendly foe of late: Although Tom Crean is in his first year with the Bulldogs, Georgia has had Alabama’s number of late, having won five of the last six matchups including the last two at Coleman Coliseum. UGA is 2-7 since New Year’s Day, but one of those wins was over Texas, 98-88, in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Bulldogs won the last meeting in Athens, 64-46, on Jan. 6, 2018.