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January 17, 2012

HURT: Tide needs to pick up the pace

Anthony Grant can be succinct at times. He can give courteous but brief answers to questions about the University of Alabama basketball team that he coaches, and he often leaves the specifics of his communication with the Crimson Tide in the locker room where he clearly feels it belongs.

Grant, though, is mysterious. He can be a man of few words, but those words are direct. Such was the case on Tuesday as he talked about his team as it comes off a frustrating 56-52 loss at Mississippi State and continues to navigate the tricky shoals of upcoming games with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, perhaps the best two teams in the Southeastern Conference.

"I don't like the tempo we're playing at right now," Grant said. "We need to get out of our comfort zone."

When asked specifically about his displeasure with the tempo, Grant said "it's too slow.

"We need to create other ways to manufacture points."

Grant didn't go further, but for anyone who watched the Alabama-Mississippi State game, he didn't have to say more. Too many times, Alabama's offense consisted of passing the ball around the perimeter for errant 3-point shot attempts (UA made only one) or finding JaMychal Green in the post. On a couple of occasions, Green was able to feed teammates cutting to the basket for layups. More often than not, though, he was left to bang against State's inside behemoth, Renardo Sidney, a tough assignment in the half-court, especially on the road, where more-than-incidental contact often fails to draw a whistle from the officials. Common sense would dictate that against a State team with interior size provided by Arnett Moultrie and Sidney, the best solution might be to run. Sidney looks to be in better shape than he was last season, when he seemed to sweat lager beer and bacon grease, but he still doesn't want to make too many 94-foot trips that don't involve a refrigerator at one end or the other.

The players who spoke to the media on Tuesday made it clear that Grant had expressed the same concerns.

"There was a lot of one-on-one play," point guard Trevor Releford said. "We watched a lot of film over it. We know we can't win that way."

Freshman Trevor Lacey's theory was that the Crimson Tide's full-court defense was so draining that the team would occasionally "get some wind" while on offense, since "you don't want to rest on defense." That is probably freshman oversimplification, but it would explain results such as a loss when allowing only 56 points.

Regardless of the answer, Grant clearly wasn't happy that there was still a question.

"The biggest thing is that this team has to make a decision on who we want to be," Grant said. "I thought a lot of the things that cost us the Mississippi State game were the same things that caused us to lose the Kansas State game, the Georgetown game and the Dayton game.

"You want to see your team mature, and there is a time when winning has to take priority over individual things."

From a man of few words, that's a mouthful. In the past, Grant has shown that his words generally mean action. He has been unabridged to shuffle his lineup, even with the biggest games on the horizon. It will be interesting see how much change there will be Thursday night against Vanderbilt - and how many changes Grant will make if there isn't enough.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0225.

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