Andy summed up today's game best in a brief post-game tweet:
Great win today! It's comforting to see the Boilers take care of business as they should.
This was a "business as usual" game, like so many we had last year. Think of the home game against Iowa. That game wasn't especially exciting. It wasn't a challenge. Those who were supposed to score, did, and we were able to pull away with a comfortable victory. After two straight games where we struggled greatly to do much of anything on either end of the floor, it was kind of nice to just hold a double-digit lead for most of the contest.
All told, I think this is what we needed today. Things weren't perfect, but they were better. We played a team that was a challenge to us last year and a major conference opponent, yet we were never seriously threatened. This season is all about growing at this point. We have a nice stretch of games where we can grow. This was a positive step, so I'll take it.
Positives from the Alabama game:
E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson - They did what they are going to do in every game. Let's face it, if they don't, we're screwed either way. Our success on the season will be determined by what everyone else does. JJ spent a lot more time in the post and seemed to be about 3-4 inches above everyone on the Crimson Tide roster. He didn't have a lot of rebounds, but it was his tips and the way he controlled the ball above the crowd that I noticed. As for E'Twaun, he was E'Twaun. I was impressed by his rebounding, but if 23 points can look easy, they looked easy tonight.
Rebounding - Do not underestimate winning the rebounding battle in a game like this. 30-25 may not seem like much, but neither team shot the ball well. Kelsey Barlow was surprisingly good in this department, just as I knew he could be last year. If he wants to, he can crash the boards and clean up with second chance points better than anyone else on the team. This is why I want to see him play at the three or the four. Two of his four points came on a rebound dunk. Forget having him bring the ball up the floor. Just turn him loose on the glass.
John Hart and Ryne Smith - We have to get at least 13 points between the two of them every night. I liked most that they were not afraid to shoot tonight. You can't score if you don't shoot. If someone is going to emerge as a third scorer they have to do so by shooting. You can put Terone Johnson in this category. Eventually, their shots will start falling. They were 6 of 18 from the field, but that is a lot better than the other night when all three seemed to be afraid to shoot.
Lewis Jackson - All four of his points came from him controlling the play, then driving. He needs to do this more.
Free Throws - 13 of 14 is much better than my established wish of 75%. Keep it up. Kudos to GDB for knocking down both of his attempts.
Perimeter defense - You're going to win a lot of games with numbers like these: 40% shooting, 17 turnovers forced, only eight team assists surrendered, 0 for 9 from 3-point land, 47 points. Who cares how bad the offense is performing then, as long you can get to 50 on the scoreboard. There is no question that Alabama was missing JaMychal Green, but most of their points came on runouts. They couldn't do anything in the halfcourt, where our defense was as stifling as usual.
Negatives from the Alabama game:
The Hanson Brothers - At least we got 14 minutes out of them, but 11 minutes of run went to Travis Carroll. Carroll had a pair of rebounds and did some nice things. I have noticed that he is aggressive about establishing position on the low block, but we're still hesitant to pass it to him. He is a smart passer. He knows when to shoot and when to pass once he gets it. He needs more stretches like this. Patrick Bade didn't play and Sandi Marcius only got three minutes. I really hope they can all three get more over the next four games so we can find at least one of them to trust more.
D.J. Byrd - I hope it was the shoulder injury that held him to two minutes of nothing today.
We need to keep growing, and our second true road game in a week, this time at Valparaiso, is another chance to grow. We're going to be heavily favored as a ranked major conference team should be against a mid-major. It can be a dangerous game, however, because it is their biggest home game of the season. The Crusaders are off to a nice 6-2 start and could threaten for the Horizon League's auto-bid since they already have two road conference wins under their belts. They have four players averaging in double figures, so we need to be ready.
Fortunately, there were a lot of good things out of today. We got other people involved in the offense and shots will start falling again. I am concerned that we settle for the three too much, but at least other people were trying to do something today. They need to keep doing that. Everything else will come in time.