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March 14, 2019

Avery Johnson

Galin Smith

Tevin Mack

St. Louis, Missouri

Alabama-62, Ole Miss-57

THE MODERATOR: We are ready to begin with Alabama. We'll ask Coach Johnson for some opening thoughts on the game.

AVERY JOHNSON: I want to congratulate Ole Miss on a hard-fought game. They've had a terrific season. We're fortunate to win at home, and now win here in the game in the SEC tournament.

I'm proud of the way our team fought back, especially in the second half, playing against a well-coached team, Coach of the Year, Coach Kermit. I wanted to again congratulate him. But my guys, the second half, I just asked them to turn the ball over five times or less. We were just throwing the ball all over Nashville today in the first half.

But they responded. We made a couple of adjustments in the second half. We inserted Tevin back into the lineup. He responded. Doesn't like to come off the bench that much. Tevin and Galin, they were incredible for us. Galin was a man inside. We went bigger tonight inside. That paid dividends for us.

We had key contributions from guys like John Petty with a huge offensive rebound dunk, free throws there at the end of the game, Tyler with some nice drives.

This team, when their backs are against the wall, they seem to respond in a positive way. We're fortunate to get this win tonight.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. What did you think was the difference in the second half?
GALIN SMITH: We knew in the first half we didn't do the things we needed to do on defense to get the necessary stops we needed to get. We turned the ball over a lot in the first half. Had to cut down on that in the second half. We had to come out and be the aggressors in the second half. They came out, were beating us to every loose ball, rebounds. We decided not to be the ones to get aggressed on.

Q. Galin, y'all seemed to decide to really use your size tonight. You got the ball in the post a lot, jump hooks. Talk about how you performed tonight.
GALIN SMITH: Like you say, I feel like it was our physicality throughout the whole game that really won us the game. We beat them on the boards 50-30. Me and Donta and all other our guards was down there trying to bang, get the rebounds. I feel that was a really good part to us executing our game plan.

Q. Tevin, you got it going in the first half, really good offensive rhythm. Talk about the key to that, when you started feeling it.
TEVIN MACK: It's just one of those things I let it come to me. Didn't force nothing. Just wanted to go out there and win the game, honestly. Took what they gave me. They were playing back a little bit. I was able to make some jumpers to get me going early and carried it out throughout the rest of the game.

THE MODERATOR: We'll excuse the student-athletes. We'll continue with questions for Coach Johnson.

Q. Great play that you drew up that tied the game. Walk us through that out-of-bounds play.
AVERY JOHNSON: I don't want to give away our secrets, but those are what we call special situations. Every time we practice, we always work on special situations. A couple of times we got bogged down a little bit with their 2-3 zone. I didn't like our execution.

That's why our bench was so exciting, not just because Kira scored, but because we've been working on that play all year. It came at the right time and was perfectly executed.

Q. You talked all week about this team responding with its back against the wall. Did you at any point think the back had gotten too far against the wall going into the second half?
AVERY JOHNSON: We just focused on things that we can control. One of the things we can control is our effort rebounding. I told the team once we look at the stat sheet at halftime and after the game, let's see if we can win the rebound game.

Backs against the wall, all that stuff... The one thing we can control is our effort, our hustle, our passion, our discipline. I saw a lot of those positives tonight.

Q. The decision to start Galin seemed to give you two options down in the post, a little bit better offensive situation. What went into that decision?
AVERY JOHNSON: We had to make a decision on whether we wanted to continue to start four potential three-point shooters or whether we wanted to get back to being physical Alabama basketball. We've been trying to score in the high 70s and 80s. Just hadn't worked out for us.

We went back to just some old rough and rugged basketball. Fortunately it paid off for us.

Q. You get Kentucky next. It's a short turnaround. Talk about the matchup.
AVERY JOHNSON: Well, I'm proud of your guys from Huntsville, they really helped us tonight. Like I said, John Petty, Kira Lewis, I don't know if you claim Riley Norris or not.

But to answer your question, we've had some tough matchups against Kentucky. Coming into the season, one of the things we talked about was we never had success against them in my four years here. That was a highly contested game.

Now we'll have another opportunity to see if we can play a hard-nosed, tough game, with a lot of discipline. Hopefully our guys continue to pay attention to all the minor details. It's just amazing how alert they've been in practice and even this morning in shootaround.

I think we'll be ready to go. We know we're playing against an awfully tough opponent.

Q. You talked about going with a bigger lineup tonight. Is that kind of a foreshadowing of tomorrow? Travis, we don't know what his status is. How does that change the way you look at them inside?
AVERY JOHNSON: We're not going to give away our starting lineup tonight. We'll evaluate it. That's one of the things we'll do. We'll go back and get a cup of coffee, we'll have a late night as a staff. We'll evaluate our lineup against Kentucky. Back in Tuscaloosa, we'll look at our two bigs, we'll look at smaller lineup. That's the great thing about this situation. You just have a chance to figure out the right buttons to push, and hopefully you push the right ones.

Whichever team we start tomorrow, we just got to be ready to play our style, at our speed and pace.

Q. I've heard you talk this year about being in desperation mode. Do you feel like your team is still in desperation mode in regard to the NCAA tournament?
AVERY JOHNSON: I think we don't have a choice. We have a really good résumé. I know the negative folks, they love, love, love, like the 5% or 10%, they like to focus on your 'bad losses'. We also have some outstanding wins.

Hopefully the outstanding wins trump any of our bad losses. We play in a tough conference. Maybe four years ago when I first arrived in the SEC, there's no way in the world a team could go 8-10, make it to the tournament. Now it's a different SEC. That's why I think an eight or nine team also make it to the tournament. Hopefully we'll get our names called.

In the meantime we're going to focus on how to play another outstanding basketball game tomorrow with hopefully a little less turnovers, better execution in both the first and second half.

Q. You held a really good offensive team to 19 points in the second half. Talk about the defensive effort.
AVERY JOHNSON: We've been in that situation before against a couple of teams at home. We were outstanding on defense in the first half. All of a sudden we give up 45 points in the second half. Really bothered me.

Really challenged the team not only to take care of the ball in the second half, but let's play even better defense. I tried to zone them a little bit. They were ready for it. They got the ball in the middle of the zone. We didn't zone them much in the second half. We just played some gritty, hard-nosed man-to-man. Our fitness level was extremely good, energy level was extremely good in the second half.

Proud of our guys. But there's no parades. We get back to the hotel, hydrate, get ready for the next one.

Q. You mentioned the North Alabama contingent. Winning basketball stats: nine rebounds, five assists, one steal.
AVERY JOHNSON: What about diving on the floor for balls? And defense, leadership. Making the extra pass. That's what it's all about. That's why even though he was struggling a little bit offensively, I just needed him on the floor because he's a winner, he's a senior. This is his last rodeo. I don't think he wanted to go home tonight.

Q. How were you able to contain the Rebels for 10 points?
AVERY JOHNSON: Not their best night. Those guys are all SEC players. They're experienced. I've been battling with them for several years now. Sure, we play some pretty good defense. Our guys, you got a bunch of 6'7" guys that try to contest shots. It wasn't their best night. They're great kids. Any coach in the SEC would love to have those kids on their team.

Not their best night. But they've had an outstanding year.

Q. You mentioned Tevin not liking to come off the bench, being on the bench. How would you categorize the points he gave you making the comeback?
AVERY JOHNSON: I was more interested in how he rebounded the basketball. We hadn't been getting any rebounds from that position, especially when we're small. As important as his points were tonight, I'm more impressed by his six rebounds, his physicality.

I waited for a while to insert him into the game tonight. But he responded in a positive way. Got him back in the lineup in the second half. Because of his defense and rebounding, that took some pressure off his offense. I saw a much more relaxed offensive player tonight that really helped us on both ends of the floor.



FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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