Today we look at the sudden change of fortunes for the Alabama basketball team, now on a three-game winning streak. This is the print-edition story:
For weeks, Alabama’s basketball team staggered through SEC play without an identity.
Even the two wins that followed four straight losses were a struggle. Just when the suspension of second-leading scorer Tony Mitchell threw in another twist, something clicked.
And the Crimson Tide snapped back into place.
Turning to its depth, Alabama used its retooled formula to rediscover its November rhythm. The result — a 68-50 pounding at Auburn on Tuesday night — brought the smiles back to the short-handed team. The Tide also appeared to turn that troublesome corner that threatened postseason possibilities.
Bench production played a huge part in the turnaround for Alabama (16-7, 5-4 SEC). Reserves recorded an average of 31 points in the three-game winnings streak — 44 percent of the total scored in that span.
And the heroes were not necessarily on pregame scouting reports.
Sophomores Carl Engstrom and Charles Hankerson joined freshman Rodney Cooper in supplying energy bumps and scoring surges at critical moments at Auburn.
Engstrom, the 7-footer from Sweden, went first to chip in the most surprising contribution of the night. He hadn’t left the bench in six games, so his entry five minutes into the contest was especially notable.
Scoring four quick points gave Engstrom a career high, though it was his defense that changed the game. Auburn center Rob Chubb opened the game with four straight jumpers, but Engstrom’s imposing presence kept him from getting the ball often after that.
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