Alabama beat its fourth ranked ream of the season on Wednesday, and no, we’re not talking about football. We’re talking about hoops, as the Tide held off No. 15 Texas A&M, 63-62, in Tuscaloosa.
“It was our defense,” Alabama guard Retin Obasohan said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench, referring to the key to victory. “Our big guys do a great job of stepping up and just accepting the challenge. Whenever us guards try to push off on defense, our bigs are there to help pick up the slack and protect the paint. Our bigs did a great job of that late in the game.”
Alabama (14-9, 5-6) led by 11 with less than seven minutes to go but allowed the Aggies to get back in it. In the end, though, the Tide stiffened, recording 12 steals, three blocks and winning the rebounding battle 36-29. Alabama held A&M to 42.2 percent shooting from the floor, including 11-of-28 (39.3 percent) from inside the arc.
“That was one of the biggest things that Coach Johnson emphasized going into this game,” Obasohan said. “Texas A&M is a great team that’s scored about 77 points a game. They take care of the ball and they share the ball. So our biggest thing was let’s come in there and keep them out of transition, so we can get our defense set and that way we put ourselves in places to succeed.”
Obasohan, a senior, led Alabama with 16 points, while freshman forward Donta Hall had six points, 10 boards, two steals and a block in 21 minutes off the bench.
“That’s Super Dante,” Obasohan said. “That’s what I call him. Ever since he stepped on campus, his athleticism is a force to be reckoned with. Today was just a glimpse of what he’s capable of. I’m excited to see how he can keep getting better, keep getting stronger and just really become the player I think he can become.”
Alabama, which has won four of five, is 4-2 against ranked teams this season. Those two losses came against Xavier, which is currently ranked fifth in the AP Poll, and Kentucky, which is, well, Kentucky. Alabama hadn’t beaten four ranked teams in a regular season since 2001-02.
This year’s renaissance, it’s fair to say, is a direct byproduct of Avery Johnson.
“Man, it’s been a tremendous blessing (playing for him),” Obasohan said. “I couldn’t have scripted it any better. I couldn’t have dreamt it any better. It’s all been so surreal. Just to play for a great coach and a great man of his caliber is a blessing that you really can’t put into words. It’s been a lot of fun. As players, we’re responding to that. We enjoy playing for him, we love him, he really instilled that confidence in us that he believes in us and we believe in his system that he’s teaching us. It’s worked for us. Having those results and having him as our leader, he just makes us want to work even harder and get even better to see how far we can really take this thing.”
Alabama plays at Florida (16-8, 7-4) this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. ET.