Alabama has found many ways to lose this year, and today's loss might just be the most unusual one yet. After playing an absolutely terrible first half, and being behind 28-19, the Tide staged a furious comeback, only to end up with a possible winning three-point shot by Trevor Releford stuck between the rim and the backboard. 'Bama ended up on the wrong end of a 67-66 game against the last place South Carolina Gamecocks. The final score continued the Tide's problem of not being able to win when the opposition scores 65 or more points. If South Carolina had only scored 65 today, Alabama would have won. The team dropped to 2-14 in that scenario. Alabama is now 10-15 overall, 4-8 in the SEC and 0-11 away from Coleman Coliseum. South Carolina is 10-15 and 3-9 in the SEC.
There is nothing to be said about the first half except the Tide just plain stunk. The team shot 5-20 (25%) from the field, 0-4 from three point range, and was 9-13 from the free throw line. USCe, the best three point shooting team in the league was 4-9 from behind the arc in the first half, and 11-25 overall. The half was just, simply stated, ugly, ugly basketball.
The second half did not start out much better for 'Bama, and at the 15 minutes mark the 'Cocks had stretched their lead to 12 points. From that point forward Releford, once again, put the team on his back, and very nearly carried them to victory. After scoring only two points, on free throws, in the first half, Releford heated up to the tune of 25 second half points. Releford has now scored in double figures in 26 straight games dating back to last season. The senior from Kansas City hit 7-12 shots on the night, 4-7 from three, and 9-10 from the charity stripe to finish with 27 points. Releford passed Michael Ansley to move into ninth place on all time scoring at the Capstone with 1,755 points.
The Tide battled and battled and finally took the lead late in the game, and even briefly held a four point lead with less than two minutes left in the game. As has been the case many times this year, they couldn't close the door and finish off the Gamecocks. Some more missed free throws - by Rodney Cooper and even Releford - allowed USC to remain in the game down the stretch. When Sindarius Thornwell hit a floater to give South Carolina a two point lead with 15 seconds left, the stage was set for Releford to be the hero for the second time this week. The Tide called two timeouts to set up a chance for Releford to take a possible game winning shot. With about five seconds left Releford launched a three point attempt to possibly win the game. Somehow the ball wedged between the rim and backboard, causing a jump ball situation. Unfortunately the possession arrow was pointing South Carolina's way, and they were awarded the ball. Thornwell was fouled, hitting one of two and stretching the lead to four points. Releford got the ball in, and despite his best efforts to draw contact as he shot, he could not. The three did drop at the buzzer, cutting the final margin to one point.
Releford once again made a point that he very likely should be SEC player of the year. He scored 27 points, grabbed four rebounds, dished three assists, and had three steals. Shannon Hale continued to show promise, scoring 11 points. Cooper also had 11 and led the team with five rebounds. One game after breaking out with 18 points and eight rebounds against Ole Miss, Nick Jacobs contributed just two points and one rebound. Levi Randolph hit two three pointers, doubling his production in SEC play, and finished with six points. Jimmie Taylor added six points as well. Thornwell carried the Gamecocks with 22 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Brenton Williams added 10 points, and Jaylen Shaw and Michael Carrera each had eight points.
This was a very winnable game against an opponent that is not very good. It would classify as a bad loss. The comeback was nice, fighting and not giving up was nice, Releford being Releford was nice, but nice doesn't give the team W's. And this team is in much need of W's. The next try for a road win is on Thursday at Texas A&M at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
I'm afraid that all of you out there that are calling for Grant's head may have to wait. In talking to some of my contacts, I am told there is no way he will be let go this year. Also for all the Bruce Pearl fanatics, I was flat out told, "if he is hired here, you can guarantee that it is because everyone in the Athletic Department was fired and there is a new regime in there." So suck it up for now, regardless of what you think or want, Anthony Grant will be the Tide's basketball coach at least through next year. Them's the facts, folks.
Roll Tide Y'all and once again Hang In There
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