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Alabama buying into Grant's defensive mind-set

 

Adam Minichino

 

LSU coach Trent Johnson can attest to it. 

 

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is a believer in it, too. 

 

Nineteen games into the season, it looks like the University of Alabama men''s basketball team has bought into coach Anthony Grant''s defensive mind-set. 

 

The Crimson Tide showcased their stinginess Saturday, holding No. 23 Mississippi State to 31.7 percent shooting from the field in a 62-57 victory at Coleman Coliseum. 

 

Alabama (12-7, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) will try to build on that effort at 7 p.m. today (SEC Network) when it plays host to LSU (9-10, 0-5). 

 

The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers 66-49 on Jan. 9 in Baton Rouge, La. The effort impressed Johnson, who said Alabama has improved since that meeting. 

 

"They''re playing really good defensively," Johnson said. "From what I can see, they are more comfortable with coach''s system." 

 

Johnson complimented Alabama for its effort against MSU. The Crimson Tide limited the Stansbury''s Bulldogs to 2-of-18 shooting from 3-point range to pull the upset. He said the Crimson Tide did a fine job of rotating players to cover shooters and covering for teammates on the backside of the defense.  

 

For the season, Alabama has held opponents to 50 or fewer points eight times. Picked to finish third in the SEC West, Alabama is 10th in the league in scoring (69.6) and third in scoring defense (63.7) behind MSU and Florida. 

 

"I think we have improved," Grant said. "Our defense has given us the opportunity to be in games. We''re a work in progress on the offensive end, and we''re struggling going through lulls." 

 

Grant said his team''s versatility gives it the ability to play different defenses and to pressure opponents. The defense leads to turnovers and points in transition, which makes things easier on the offense. 

 

Grant, a former assistant coach at the University of Florida and the former head coach at Virginia Commonwealth, said he has talked to his players all season about adopting a defensive mind-set. He said tough defense and strong rebounding will be keys the rest of the season. 

 

"We have to understand again who we are," Grant said. "If we continue to do that, if we can defend and we can get consistent in terms of rebounding then that gives us a chance at least every night. 

 

"I think our guys are giving good effort. I think we understand the intensity we have to play with against the competition we''re playing. It''s a process where hopefully we understand we''ve got to bring that energy and effort every night. If you do that, at least you''re going to have an opportunity, and that''s all we can look for.  

 

Alabama has held six of its last seven opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field. In the SEC, teams are shooting 38.5 percent against Alabama. 

 

Offensively, JaMychal Green is coming off an 18-point, nine-rebound effort against MSU. He is averaging 15.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game on 52.6 percent shooting. 

 

Mikhail Torrance had a game-high 20 points, his fifth 20-point performance of the season, against MSU.  

 

Freshman Tony Mitchell is averaging 8.5 points and 11.5 rebounds the past two games. 

 

Alabama will play at 3 p.m. Saturday at Auburn. 

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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