The Crimson Tide basketball team fell on the road 76-70 to the Georgia Bulldogs in disappointing fashion over the weekend. Roll 'Bama Roll reacts with some initial impressions...
- The biggest takeaway for most fans from this loss is the fact that we blew a 13-point lead in the final eleven minutes. It was our 7th time in 8 SEC losses to lose a second-half lead and our 4th time in 8 SEC losses to lose a double-digit second-half lead. Since we've seen this same script play out so many times, there isn't a lot left I can say that hasn't already been discussed ad nauseum. Aside from the obvious factors that play into this sickening pattern, like our horrible lack of depth and our dearth of offensive playmakers--things we can't control for now--the overriding problem is our lack of a killer instinct. When we get these leads, we tend to visibly let off the gas, both on the defensive end in terms of intensity and on the offensive end in terms of movement. When we notch down the defensive intensity--which we noticeably did on Saturday--we give up our biggest strength and essentially stop doing what got us the lead in the first place. We also have a tendency of slowing down our movement on offensive and seem to want to start milking clock as soon as we get a substantial lead. That might be fine if we had a player who could create and score as the shot clock is winding down, but we don't. This lack of executing the offense is a big factor to the long scoring droughts that allow opponents to come back on us.
- The loss now drops us to 14-12 on the season and down to 4-8 in SEC play. With Ole Miss losing again, we had a great shot to catch them for the 3rd spot in the West had we held on, but instead we fell into a tie with Auburn for 4th/5th. Our NIT hopes took a big hit as well, although we still have a realistic shot if we win three of our last four going into the SEC tournament. Despite their weak SEC record, Georgia has a much higher RPI ranking than either Auburn or Arkansas, and losing to a top-100 RPI team on the road isn't a horrible thing in terms of tournament selection. Still, we should have won that game, and at this point we just need to accumulate wins overall. We have nearly run out of chances now, and even an NIT bid is starting to look like a long-shot.
Read below the jump for more analysis on the Alabama loss over the weekend...
- Despite our meltdown, and specifically the noticeable let-up in intensity I mentioned earlier, we really did most of the things we needed to do to win a toss-up game on the road. We did an excellent job getting to the free throw line (a very good trend as of late), earning 27 attempts and converting a very good 78% of those attempts. We also did a fairly good job knocking down our open looks from the perimeter, hitting seven 3's on the day, hitting about 40% of our attempts once you take out the desperation heaves in the final seconds. The one thing we did not do very well throughout was rebound. The Dawgs managed to pull in 12 offensive boards out of 31 misses, for 39%. Aside from our meltdown, this was the biggest factor in our loss. On the positive side was (again) our aggressiveness on the offensive end resulting in free throw attempts and our intensity on the defensive end resulting in 12 steals on the day, which allowed us to build the big lead before we let up.
- Individually, we got a fine performance from Mikhail Torrance. He had another extremely productive game despite coming off the bench again and continuing to see a reduction in his minutes. He got to the free throw line for 7 attempts (hitting all) and knocked down 3 shots from beyond the arc (hitting 50%) to contribute 20 points on the day. He also committed only one turnover while dishing out three assists. Basically, not much more we could ask from Torrance offensively.
- I really liked the way JaMychal Green played offensively in this one. He was as aggressive as we've seen all year, and had the refs continued to call the game as tightly down the stretch as they did for the first 32 minutes of the game, Green's production likely would have put us over the top. He was very active inside, doing a good job of positioning and creating shot attempts for himself and getting himself to the free throw line. He amassed 16 points and 11 rebounds for the game, both very good totals. On the downside, he committed four turnovers and put up some tough shots, but both can be attributed to his aggressiveness, especially in the closing minutes when he was trying to get to the foul line (again, partially the result of the refs letting things go in the final minutes that they had been calling all day). I certainly don't have a problem with him playing like that (I've been calling for it all year) and if it results in a few more missed shots and turnovers for us, I can live with that as our overall offensive production will likely be the better for it.
- We really missed Chris Hines when he fouled out with over six minutes to go. He was a little more active on the stat sheet than usual, chipping in five points and six rebounds, but his value to the lineup really showed when he left the game and our interior defense and rebounding took a really big hit in those last six minutes. Hines also added three steals on the day, but picked up some unnecessary fouls in the process that lead to his early dismissal. Justin Knox came off the bench for 17 minutes but only managed one rebound and was 0-for-5 from the floor. We were out-rebounded down low all day long, but the Dawgs really punished us on the boards in those final minutes.
- On the perimeter, both Anthony Brock and Senario Hillman continued to see increased playing time. The two players led the team in minutes, and combined for a fairly productive 21 points, four assists, and three made 3s (out of eight attempts). Hillman did have four turnovers, but he has been asked to handle the ball on the perimeter more and more these last few games as Grant has attempted to take some of the burden off of Torrance--something that is not Hillman's strength. Charvez Davis continues to ease his way back into things. He looked the most active he has since his injury in his 15 minutes of action, in which he managed to knock down a big open 3. Brock and Hillman's recent upswing in playing time has surprisingly come at the expense of Tony Mitchell, who played only 14 minutes on Saturday after playing only 19 the game before. I can't really figure out the reasoning for this, seeing as Mitchell was arguably our most productive player there for a few weeks. It may simply be a factor of our last two opponents, both of which played exclusively with three guards instead of using a small forward. Whatever the reason, we certainly missed his rebounding prowess on Saturday, as the Dawgs tallied 12 more total boards than we did. Keep an eye on Mitchell's playing time in the next couple of games.
- Things will not get any easier for the Tide, as we now must prepare for yet another road matchup, this time against SEC West co-leaders and NCAA bubble team Mississippi State. The game in Starkville is probably our toughest left on the schedule, but a win there could make up for the disappointment of losing to Georgia. Only four games to go in the regular season. Roll Tide.