Alabama Handles Kennesaw State in Avery Johnson’s Debut
At one point Friday, Avery Johnson was nervous. It wasn’t anything significant, but it was enough to put things into perspective. In that moment of angst, it occurred to him that seven months in the making had finally arrived.
But it hardly showed, if at all, when the time came.
In his official debut as Alabama men’s basketball coach, Johnson’s Crimson Tide handled Kennesaw State for the majority of the night, dispatching the Owls, 77-64, in Coleman Coliseum.
“When I was relaxing a little bit at home today, there was a point where I was just thinking, ‘Wow, this is actually about to happen,’” Johnson said, before adding with a laugh, “I think it happened when I was picking out what suit I was going to wear tonight.”
Nerves, ultimately, had little effect on Dazon Ingram, as well, or so it seemed. The true freshman point guard had a full stat line in his own debut with the Crimson Tide, scoring 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go along with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
“At first I was a little nervous,” he said after the game, “but as the game went on, it just started to wear off. Once we started to play fast like we're supposed to, it just all went away.”
Ingram, who started at point guard alongside Retin Obasohan with Arthur Edwards, Shannon Hale and Jimmie Taylor in the front court, scored 12 of his 16 points after halftime.
“I’m proud of him. Dazon is a gamer,” said Obasohan, a senior who scored a team-high 18 points in the win. “He is one of those guys that’s really talented and has tremendous potential, and what you guys saw tonight was just a glimpse of it. That guy has tremendous upside, and I know he’s going to be big for this program this year and the years forward. I’m proud of him. He did a great job.”
Alabama (1-0) never trailed in the win, maintaining a double-digit lead for almost the entirety of the game after Obasohan's 3-pointer put the Tide up 15-3 with 13:09 left in the opening period. Kennesaw State cut the lead to single digits with just under eight minutes to go in the game but was unable to come closer than seven points.
Hale, the third Tide player who reached double figures in scoring against the Owls with 13, scored the first points of the Johnson era on a pair of free throws at the 18:10 mark in the first half. Alabama, though, which shot 50.9 percent from the field, struggled from the free throw line, converting just 55.6 percent of its attempts (15-of-27).
“We’re just going to work on it, practice it and be focused in practice,” Johnson said. “Our guys can make free throws. … We’ve seen them make them in practice. There were a little jitters there.”
For Johnson, the win marks his first of any kind as a college coach. Prior to Friday, Johnson had never coached at the collegiate level. He was hired as the team’s coach in April after previously spending several years as an NBA head coach.
And while he admitted there was a moment where those nerves hit him earlier in the day, he said they subsided by the time he arrived at the arena.
“I have to be confident 100 percent of the time,” Johnson said. “I have to be that anchor for our team in terms of confidence and making sure we're prepared. In our staff, we have to feel positive energy in our guys because they're young and inexperienced.”
Despite the steady lead throughout, Kennesaw State guard Yonel Brown did everything in his power to keep it close. It was the junior who was responsible for the Owls’ late run behind his game-high 34 points and 10 rebounds.
Alabama played before an announced crowd of 14,970 Friday, the largest crowd at a home opener since 15,043 attended the 1989 opener against North Carolina. The Crimson Tide defeated the Tar Heels, 101-93 that day.
Before the game, Alabama held a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed at least 100 Friday.
Alabama travels to Dayton on Tuesday, with tipoff scheduled for noon on ESPN.
Women's basketball victorious
The Alabama women's basketball team also won in its regular-season opener Friday night.
Prior to the men's game, the women's team defeated Alabama A&M, 96-44, in the first game of the men's and women's basketball doubleheader at Coleman Coliseum.
Seven Alabama players scored in double figures in the victory over the Bulldogs. Sophomore Quanetria Bolton led the Crimson Tide with a career-high 19 points to go along with her 10 rebounds.
"I liked our fast pace and the way we spaced the floor," coach Kristy Curry said. "Good things happened. It’s not so much about who we’re playing. It’s not so much about the score. It’s how we need to play, and I really liked the way we played today."
The game tipped off at 4:30 p.m., three hours before the men's game. It was the team's second game played in Coleman Coliseum since moving back to Foster Auditorium at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
Last season, the women beat Florida A&M in its season opener at Coleman Coliseum, which was also played before a men's game. The Tide is 18-2 all time when opening its season in Tuscaloosa.
Watch Alabama basketball play-by-play announcer and Tide 99.1's Chris Stewart recap the win.