Oats Wants Better Defense
Nate Oats spoke for a long while after his team blew out LSU Saturday, and it wasn't all complimentary when it came to his Crimson Tide. Far from it. Here's a look:
“Unbelievable crowd again. It’s great playing at home in front of sellouts. Hopefully, our fans keep coming out. Our student section was great. I thought everybody was great. It’s good. It’s what makes college basketball the environment we were able to play in. So I’d like to thank them, and hopefully, we get them to keep coming out.
“Great offensive game, obviously. We’ve been on these guys about the turnovers. We only had two turnovers at the half. It’s a pretty compliant group that tries to do what you ask them to do. The only issue is defensively, we just aren’t quite there yet, and I honestly didn’t think it was there like it needed to be today. I thought the first two four-minute battles in the second half, we were pretty good. I thought there was one where we were decent in the first half, kind of when we opened it up.
“All in all, LSU is much better than they were last year. I think Coach (Matt) McMahon has done a great job. They easily could have been 5-1 going into this game. But we’ve got to get better on defense. We switched the starting lineup up to give us a little bit of a boost and see if we could pressure them into just get some kind of – we we much better because we out-scored them. Offensively, we were a lot better than what we’ve been.
“We still didn’t get the defense that we’d like, but I did think that starting group was a lot better in the second half. The start of the second half was a lot better defensively. We were able to finally – I don’t want to say we dominated them but we pulled away late and got a pretty convincing win, which I felt like we needed to get one of those here, and we got it tonight.”
On starting a small lineup and benching Nick Pringle until the second half
“We needed to make a change to the starting lineup. Our starts had been disastrous, like the start of the first half and the start of the second half, game after game after game. I kind of kept warning those guys. So we made a change. I thought (Latrell Wrightsell) has been good in the lineup. I thought Rylan (Griffen) came off the bench but played great. I thought those four guards were kind of playing our best. Grant (Nelson) has been playing well. We just put the guys that have been playing best in.
“And then I played the guys we felt like gave us the best chance to win the game at the appropriate times in the game. So Nick gave us some pretty good minutes in the second half. But I played guys I thought gave us the best chance to win, and it worked out pretty well tonight.”
On Alabama recording a program-record sixth 100-point game this season
“We should have eight. Shoot, I put the walk-ons in with 99 against Oregon and 98 against Mercer. We can score the ball at a high clip. Obviously, we play fast, efficient and fast. That adds up to 100-point games. It says we’ve got really talented players that are unselfish and move the ball. If you look at our assists, we had 23 assists. (Aaron) Estrada was pushing a triple-double again with 18, seven and six. (Mark) Sears had five assists. You put together really talented players, put them in a system that accentuates their strengths, play fast, efficient, you end up with 100-point games. It’d be nice if we had two more, but hopefully, it’s not our last one this year.”
On his technical foul
“I didn’t like the calls that preceded it. I thought we got one call on one end and then another call on the other end. I thought Aaron got fouled on the turnover and the call on Grant was a little soft, but I could be wrong. When I go back and look at the video, it wouldn’t be the first time I’m wrong about some calls. Sometimes we need a little energy, too. I thought the crowd got a little energized after that. Sometimes it helps. We go on a run to close the half. We went on a little bit of a run there, not enough, but enough we ended up with a six-point lead at the half.”
“We’re not locked into what the game plan is enough. We had way too much help off shooters where we didn’t need help. We’ve got a really talented offensive group, and we’re not going to be able to win a championship if guys don’t start focusing and it’s not important to them. And some of them are main guys that they’ve got to really start to focus on what it takes to win at a high level.
“LSU is good. We gave them 11 threes. A good defensive team is not giving up – they had 28 attempts. We don’t even want them to get that many off. So it was way too much help off the wrong spots from the wrong guys. Not enough effort to get back out there. Too many blow-bys off the dribble. We’ve got to get our defense shored up. I’m going to keep preaching it and harping on it.
“It’s not like you go to the bench and you’re sitting Herb Jones out there on the bench or some of our guys that have been – Noah Clowney is not over there on the bench. Some of these guys that have been great defenders here are not on the bench. Sometimes guys in the game just have to, like how good of a team do we really want to be? We’re going to try to out-score everybody? It worked tonight, but it doesn’t work every night. Like when you’re cold and your offense ain’t flowing, are you – I thought effort against Auburn was pretty good. I didn’t think we kept the same effort on the defensive end tonight. So yeah, there’s some plays that really set me off. Their effort plays and their lack of focus on the defensive end plays get me a little perturbed when that happens.”
On Grant Nelson settling into a role at center
“He’s been a lot better. We’re playing him more minutes at the five I think he’s a little more comfortable there defensively. He’s got to get better on defense for us. It was not one of his better defensive games on that end, for sure. But he’s more aggressive, a little more physical. He makes free throws – he’s 100 percent again tonight. In 24 minutes, I think he probably can get more than five rebounds for us. So we’re going to need him to step up a little bit better for us on Wednesday at Georgia.
“But he’s unbelievable kid, all about the team. Very skilled. Sometimes we need him to be a little more aggressive. I thought he made some aggressive plays tonight, though. He kind of got down in the post and went at guys. We need him to be a little bit more like that and just continue to take open threes. If he’s open from three, I’m good with him taking it. He’s shooting less, which is probably a little better. It means he’s attacking downhill a little bit more.”
On if this is a team capable of winning an SEC title
“We’re going to be in the mix. Yeah, we’re a half game ahead of Tennessee. It looked like we’d get some help from Vanderbilt through the first half, but then it didn’t happen that way. We got a little help from Mississippi State with Auburn. It looks like Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee, us are up at the top. Obviously, anybody can make a run. We’re not that far into the season. But I do think this is a team that can win it, and we’re going after it as hard as we can. But if we don’t fix our defense and get the main guys in the rotation that are planning heavy minutes to be as concerned with the defense as the offense, it’s going to be really hard to win.
“We do get Tennessee back at our place, but if we don’t guard better, we’re not going to be able to beat them. We’ve got to go to Auburn yet, if we don’t guard better, we’re not going to win a road game at Auburn. There’s some other really good games. We’ve got Kentucky, we’ve got to play at Kentucky. If you don’t guard, their offense is very high-powered and they’re playing really well on the offensive end, for the most part. Our defense has to get better. If our defense gets to where we need it to get, we’ll win a championship. If not, it going to be hard for us to do it.”
On Davin Cosby getting more minutes
“That was part of what I was talking about earlier. We played the guys that gave the best chance to win the game. I thought he’s played hard in practice. His attitude has always been great. He’s never lost his confidence on offense. I always feel like if I put him in, he’s going to make shots and play well. Again, I look to the bench and there’s no real defensive stoppers. I think he’s been trying to be better on defense. For the first time all year this week, he won to blue-collar points in practice. We chart all in practice every every day. So he won it in practice once this week.
“Just do what Mo Dioubate did. Mo Dioubate was not in the rotation. Week after week after week, he was one of the hardest-playing guys in practice every single day, and we needed some toughness with the team and Mo’s earned himself minutes in the rotation now. So that’s what I challenged Davin to do. I thought he did it for a day this week. We went two pretty hard days in practice, and he was pretty good on one of them. So I thought I’d reward him with some minutes, and I thought he did well with them.”
On if his team should be ranked after this 2-0 week
“I don’t really care, to be honest with you. Honestly, I just as soon not be ranked. I think sometimes our guys play a little bit better with a chip on their shoulder. I told them the analytics have had us top 10 all year. We’ve got to figure out how to win games. Our resume needs to look better. We need Quad 1 wins. On the road at Georgia is probably going to be a Quad 1 game. I don’t think this one was here for a home game. But we need to go get some Quad 1 wins and get our seeding up for the tournament. Rankings in January and February by poll voters that are not on the selection committee mean nothing. So don’t put us in. Let’s stay with a chip on our shoulders so we keep playing harder.”
On Mark Sears going 0-for-5 from three but still leading the team in scoring
“He’s a super talented offensive player. He’s tough. He’s physical. He drives downhill. Even when he’s not, shoot, my guess would be he might be shooting in there right now. He doesn’t take it well when he doesn’t shoot it well. But he can finish at the rim. He can get to the free-throw line. He shot 11 free throws. He’s a physical driver. He puts them in that way. He knows how to find a way to score some points on the offensive end. He’s super talented for us.”
On Aaron Estrada bouncing back after not scoring in the Auburn game
“Look, I love Aaron. He’s tough. He’s gritty. He’s a competitor. I just tried to encourage him. He’s getting his confidence back. You saw what he did the first half of the first game of the year. It looked like he was going to be pushing triple-doubles, scoring 20, 30 every night. But Steph Curry is the best shooter maybe in the history of basketball, and he goes through slumps. I think Aaron was going through a little bit of a slump. He needs a confidence boost, so every shot he missed, I just kept cheering him on. I thought he was playing super hard. He ends up leading us in rebounding tonight. He had six. He led us in assists with seven and, shoot, was three points away from – Sears had 21, Aaron had 18.
“So I thought Aaron played great. That’s how we need him to play. He led the team in +/- with plus-28 in the 30-31 minutes he was in the game. He won the Hard Hat, had the most blue-collar points by a longshot. So I thought he was great. And you know what, he’s liable to go 5-for-6 in his first six shots the next games. Offense comes and goes a little bit. That’s why we’ve got to develop a defensive mindset around here, and I thought he had a pretty good one tonight.”
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