Can one performance earn a player more playing time?
Mikhail Torrance certainly hopes so. After torching Mississippi State for a career-high 20 points on Wednesday night and looking like a confident, aggressive player in the process, Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said the junior from Mary Montgomery High has earned that right.
"There's no question he deserves an opportunity to play," Gottfried said. "He filled in (Wednesday) night and did a terrific job. We need to find some more opportunities for him."
Gottfried never tipped his hand on a starting lineup for today, only noting that Steele's heel injury -- diagnosed as plantar fasciitis -- designated the fifth-year senior point guard as "out indefinitely." Without Ronald Steele on Wednesday, Gottfried started senior Brandon Hollinger. But Torrance's contribution in a mere 22 minutes of playing time certainly elevated his status for this afternoon's game at Auburn.
Torrance remained diplomatic about his playing opportunities in today's game.
"I just want to win, to be honest," he said. "I think I've beaten Auburn once or maybe twice since I've been here. The Alabama-Auburn rivalry is big for me so I just really want to go after Auburn and handle business.
"Honestly, I really don't know. Ron is dealing with a foot injury and hopefully he'll get back as soon as possible."
Gottfried defended his decision to play Torrance less in recent weeks. The junior has played no more than 16 minutes in 14 of the Tide's 16 games this season until setting six career highs in a season-high 22 minutes on Wednesday.
"I think sometimes you're just deciding to play somebody else,"Gottfried said.
"It's not necessarily that one player's doing things in a negative way. Maybe you feel more comfortable (with somebody else). I always tell our players you've got to be ready, and when your opportunity comes, be able to respond. I feel like he did that well. He had a very good presence on the floor (Wednesday) night. Because of that, he earns some more opportunities."
Freshman JaMychal Green, who turned in an outstanding performance at Mississippi State as well, said Torrance's play reminded him of what he sees in practice every day.
"He did a great job," Green said.
"He's a great player. I'm very surprised (he hasn't played more). At practice, he does the same things, but it's Coach's decision."
Torrance had more opportunities against Mississippi State because of the Bulldogs' four-guard attack that spread the floor and left open lanes for Torrance to drive through. He almost certainly will find the same opportunities in today's game with the Tigers and is much better at that than the undersized Hollinger. Torrance, meanwhile, said he learned a lot from Wednesday's game. Alabama went through a drought on both ends of the floor midway
through the second half, as it has all year, and made crucial mistakes late in the game.
"We learned a lot," he said.
"We have to learn to stay together more. Every away game will be a hostile environment so we have to continue to execute more and just stay together."
Nowhere will that be more evident than at Auburn, where the Tigers' chemistry and intensity have allowed them to win the last two games in Beard-Eaves Memorial to turn around a decade of domination by Alabama.
"Coach said when we go down there, it'll be just like Mississippi State," Torrance said.
"We're going to have to play better 'D' and everybody's going to have to step it up."
"We want to win and this is going to be a tough game. We just have to go out, regroup, and get ready for Auburn."