There’s a good reason for Anthony Grant to look ahead rather than back. Alabama goes to Auburn Saturday, Grant’s first experience with the in-state rivalry. Tipoff against the Tigers, who were to play Ole Miss Thursday night, is at 3 p.m. CST Saturday.
Grant said that he has been a part of big rivalry games in his career, citing Florida’s games against Florida State and Kentucky when he was an assistant with the Gators, and the games against Old Dominion when he was head coach at Virginia Commonwealth, which he called “pretty intense.”
Rivalry games, he said, “are a lot of fun, a lot of emotion,” and “great for the game.”
Grant, who is in his first year as Alabama’s head coach, said his hiring did not include the mandate “You have to beat Auburn.”
“It never came up,” he said. “That may be more a football thing.”
Grant said his philosophy is that he wants his team to play the same way in every game, rivalry or not. “We want to play to our identity,” he said. “We want a level of consistency. But we know the emotion (in a rivalry game) will be there.”
He said, “I hope our guys are focused on the opportunity to win a game and advance our cause instead of anything personal or emotional.”
Alabama improved its record to 13-7 overall and 3-3 in Southeastern Conference games with its win over LSU. After three consecutive losses, Bama is now on a two-game winning streak.
But Grant is not looking back. “I’m a big believer in day-to-day,” he said. “I don’t think last Saturday’s game (and upset of Mississippi State) had anything to do with (the win over) LSU. We have to concentrate on the task at hand.”
Grant said, “I see progress on our team. I see us maturing and getting better.”
He said Auburn Coach Jeff Lebo “does a good job of mixing his schemes on offense and defense.” The Tigers have a reputation as a team that does best when it shoots well from the perimeter. By that standard, Alabama has demonstrated in recent games that its defense matches up well. LSU converted on just one of its nine three-point attempts. UA’s last two opponents are a combined 3-27 from three-point range.
That was just part of the defensive excellence Bama showed against LSU.
LSU’s 38 points were the fewest by a regular-season SEC opponent since Tennessee scored 37 points on February 24, 1958 in a 70-37 UA win.
LSU’s was the first opponent UA has held under 40 points since Florida A&M scored 39 in an 80-39 loss on December 19, 1995.
LSU shot 29.2 percent from the field, the lowest by an SEC foe since Auburn shot .290 (18-of-62) on March 2, 2005.
On the offensive side in the win over LSU, Mikhail Torrance recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 11 assists. It is the first points-assists double-double by a UA player since Ron Steele posted 23 points and 10 assists against Georgia Tech on January 3, 2009. Tony Mitchell also notched his first double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Charvez Davis posted 15 points, the second most of his career and his first double-figure output since December 5.
Alabama matched a season-high with nine three-pointers. The squad also shot a season-high 52.9 percent, its second performance about 50 percent from the arc this season. Alabama committed just four second-half turnovers and had a 3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in the half. Of Bama’s 21 field goals, 19 were assisted, its highest assisted-basket percentage (.905) of the season. In the last two games, 81.4 percent of the Tide’s baskets have been assisted.
Alabama used the starting five of Mikhail Torrance, Anthony Brock, Tony Mitchell, JaMychal Green and Chris Hines for the second straight game. The start was the second of Hines’ career.