Bama made a valiant attempt at a second half comeback last night in its nationally televised game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but a series of miscues, questionable officiating calls, and a horrid offensive start to the game were too much to overcome. The 68-60 loss drops the Tide to 5-6 on the season, ensuring that Bama will wrap up its non-conference slate (after three more home games in the coming weeks) without a marquee win or a win outside of Coleman Coliseum.
Bama hit only 3 of its first 20 shots and managed an anemic 16 points in the entire first half. With an equally strong defensive performance, though, Bama was within 3 points late in the half. However, some questionable foul calls, a lane violation, and a 6-point play resulting from a video-reviewed intentional foul call on Senario Hillman keyed an 11-0 Cowboy run to close the half and put Bama in a 14-point hole at the break from which it would never eventually recover.
The second half saw a much stronger performance from the Tide offensively, and the defensive pressure held steady throughout the half, but some uncharacteristic and timely 3-point shots by Oklahoma State, some more questionable calls (or outright blown calls in the case of a shot clock violation), and a series of missed loose-ball opportunities stopped the Tide comeback just short and allowed the Cowboys to hold on for a fairly close victory.
Individually, Trevor Releford had a great all-around game, and for the first time all season Grant elected to play him nearly the full game. He fouled out with about 2 minutes to go, and when he did, Grant handed point guard duties first to Senario Hillman, and then we he also fouled out, to Charles Hankerson. In other words, Ben Eblen's much-maligned role as the back-up point guard saw its first signs of peril. We'll see if that continues.
Charvez Davis, Senario Hillman and Charles Hankerson all had trouble producing offensively from the perimeter. Chris Hines, Jason Carter and Carl Engstrom all struggled as well, combining for only 2 points. Hines at least did do a good job rebounding, though.
Tony Mitchell had an okay game, though foul trouble limited his minutes a good deal in the first half when we really could have used him. JaMychal Green also struggled in the first half, both with foul trouble and in his tough matchup against OSU's best player, Marshall Moses. He was aggressive and active, but Moses certainly got the better of him on both ends early on. To his credit, though, Green kept fighting and played hard, and eventually had a good deal of success in the second half, particularly from the free throw line.
At the end of the day this was yet another loss to a team that probably won't be a tournament team this year (despite our poor play in the first half, OSU probably takes a loss in this one were it not for some uncharacteristic shooting and some timely breaks they caught). That said, like JaMychal Green, Bama shook off a tough first half and continued to play hard, making some adjustments and finding some success in the second half, and really came closer than the score indicates to pulling out a win. Bama was in good position to do so before Green and Releford fouled out with a few minutes to play, with the absence highlighting our lack of playmakers.
Bama won't be a tournament team this year, but with some more chances to pick up a few non-conference wins at home and the bafflingly weak SEC West this year, Bama still has time to learn how to win and get the program back on the right track this season.