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Tide men's basketball team looking for signature win on the road against No. 24 Oregon (via Crimson Magazine)

08 Dec 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: December 8, 2016

Seven games into the 2016-2017 season, Avery Johnson's University of Alabama men's basketball team perhaps has not entered that dreaded "must win" category despite a disappointing 4-3 start.
But after it's most recent outing, a 77-68 loss at Texas on Dec. 2 where UA surrendered a 12-point halftime lead with the Longhorns outscoring it 51-30 over the final 20 minutes, it is probably safe to say that the Crimson Tide is at least at an early crossroad of the young season.
And it gets no easier this weekend, as Johnson's team must make the 2,490-mile trip to Eugene, Oregon to battle Dana Altman's No. 24 Oregon Ducks, a team which defeated the Crimson Tide in Birmingham last season 72-68 after also rallying from a 12-point halftime deficit to Alabama.
The two teams will battle Sunday at the Matthew Knight Arena, and the game is set to tipoff at 5 p.m CT. It will be televised by ESPNU.
Oregon brings a 7-2 mark into the contest, having won its last five games after a 2-2 start.
During a media session Thursday, Johnson said the Tide has responded well in practice this week, and said his team has also spent a good bit of time watching video.
"We feel we've improve in some areas, and it would be nice to see when we play against another team how much we've improved," he said. "We've had some good practices, and yesterday we basically had an all-out scrimmage of a full 40-minute game, and everybody that's in the rotation played 30-plus minutes because I was really concerned about our stamina and conditioning coming out of that Texas game. We realize that we have an uphill challenge at Oregon, and they have a pretty significant home winning streak (30 games currently) that we're very well aware of. But they came here and beat us last year, so we'll see if we can go up there and get off to a good start and have a great first half hopefully and a terrific second half and put together a complete game."
Sunday's clash against the Ducks and the Dec. 18 game against Clemson will be the Tide's last two real opportunities to gain a signature non-conference win heading into Southeastern Conference play, considering it has already suffered damaging losses to Dayton, Valparaiso and Texas.
The second-year Tide coach, however, said it is too early for his team to succumb to great distress at the current time.

"I think every game is kind of a must-win and I think you see our first home game against Dayton (a 77-72 loss), all of them are like that," said Johnson. "We don't play 82 games so we think all of these games take on more of a playoff-type of atmosphere, especially from the NBA world. But at the same time, there's no panic. We're seven games into the season and we hopefully will get to a point where we can have a consistent pattern of execution on both ends of the floor. Other teams are not going to make it easy on us and we realize we have between (redshirt freshman guard) Dazon (Ingram) and (senior transfer guard) Corban (Collins) and (freshman forward) Braxton (Key) and if (junior guard/forward) Nick King was healthy or if it's (senior transfer forward) Bola (Olaniyan), we've got four guys that didn't finish the season with us last year. They all are new, whether they're new as a freshman or a fifth-year transfer. We're just trying to figure out how to get some chemistry and lineups. We're consistently changing, and hopefully by the time that we get to that 10th game, we'll know a lot more about our team, and we'll have a little bit more of a consistent lineup both starting the game, in the intermediate part of the games and finishing games."
Johnson later added when answering a question from another reporter, "We just need a complete game. We haven't had many of those (during his two seasons in Tuscaloosa)."
It will likely take a complete game by the Crimson Tide to stop the Ducks' long winning streak at home as Altman's team is talented, especially on the defensive end.
Oregon has held eight consecutive opponents under 70 points and has held seven of its nine opponents thus far this season below 40 percent shooting.
Offensively, Tyler Dorsey leads the Ducks in scoring at 13.8 points per game while Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher average 13.7 and 13.6 points respectively.
Jordan Bell leads the Ducks in rebounding with just over eight boards per contest.
"A win (in Eugene) would give us a lot of momentum," said Key, who leads the Tide in scoring with 10.4 points a contest. "I wouldn't call it a must-win game, but a very much-needed win. They try to press not to turn you over but to slow you down. They're really deep, they have guys that can score the ball in different varieties whether they're shooting the three, off the bounce, mid-range, everything. They play really well as a team, so we're just going to have to play our best night against them."
Johnson also reported Wednesday that King will not make the trip to Eugene, and that he could face a somewhat lengthy absence from the team due to an undetermined health issue.
"Nick's had some severe weight loss over the last week to 10 days, and we're very concerned about him," he said. "We went to the doctor, so we're running a battery of tests on Nick and he hasn't been able to sleep and eat, so the doctor checked him out a couple of days ago and got some tests that we're running on him today and tomorrow, but from the looks of it, he's going to be out a week or two."

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