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Georgetown loss highlights the need for improvements

The Crimson Tide basketball team suffered its first loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday night, victimized by a game-winning 3-point dagger from Georgetown's Hollis Thompson with only 1.8 seconds left. While that shot is what most fans remember as losing the game for the Tide--and to be fair, that's a shot that goes in less than 50% of the time, even when wide open--it was really the Tide's performance in the first 36 minutes of the game that allowed the game to even come down to a last-second shot.

First, credit has to go to Georgetown. They may not be a legit top-10 caliber team or a favorite to win the Big East, and probably won't make the Dance as a top-3-type seed, but they are certainly a top-20 or -25 caliber team, and I expect they will finish in the top third of the Big East and make the tournament with a solid seeding in the 4-7 range--which is to say they are one of the better teams in the country this year and capable of beating anyone on a given day. They played extremely hard the whole game, executed their coaches' game plan nearly to perfection, and up until Bama's big 10-0 run at the end that nearly won the game for the Tide, they seemingly answered every single big Alabama basket throughout the game. In other words, they did exactly what they needed to win a big road game.

Second, some credit has to go to this young Alabama team. Georgetown relentlessly frustrated them and prevented the crowd from getting into the game for nearly its entirety, and it looked all but certain that Georgetown had the game won with a 9-point lead with around three minutes left in the game. Alabama never quit though, and in all fairness, like I said in the opening paragraph, had the game come down to a final possession that easily could have gone the other way. It was encouraging to see the team fight back, not just with the big run at the end, but also in the way the team (and coaches) made some adjustments at halftime and came out more aggressive in the second half.

All of that said, though, having the game come down to a last-second Georgetown shot was a position Alabama should have never been in, especially not at home. Bama has struggled at times offensively all season in the half-court, and as I stated in my pregame piece I expected that to be the case against Georgetown. However, I never imagined we would seem so lost against their zone defense for essentially the entire first half. More than anything, Alabama's complete ineptitude at attacking the zone in the first half was the reason for losing the game, a failure that falls on both the players and the coaching staff. In fact, Grant himself admitted after the game that he didn't have his team prepared enough to go up against a zone for the whole game. Admittedly, some adjustments were made at halftime, but further adjustments will need to be made because after last night's performance, this will not be the last time we see zone defenses this season.

Aside from the general lack of offensive effectiveness, Bama's shooting woes reared their ugly heads again. The Tide made 3 of 16 shots from beyond the arc in a game where shooting over Georgetown's zone was absolutely essential. Heading into the game, Alabama was shooting 29% from the arc, which is below average to begin with. If the Tide hits its average in this game (meaning hitting 5 of 16), then the game never comes down to a last second shot, even with the otherwise horrid offensive display. To be fair, several shots, particularly two from Lacey and two from Releford, were seemingly two-thirds of the way into the basket before rimming out. Regardless, though, Bama simply has to shoot the ball better from deep if we want to truly be among the better teams in the country.

Considering how poorly Alabama played and especially how poorly Alabama shot the ball, it is a miracle the Tide forced the game to come down to the last possession. As usual, it was defense and effort that kept Bama in the game. Despite a few uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns in the second half, the Tide played more than well enough overall to win on that end. In 63 (edit: 56) offensive possessions, Georgetown managed only 57 points, a very good (edit: still good) defensive ratio against what is one of the top-20 highest rated offenses in the country.

Despite the loss, Alabama still appears to have a good team and still has a very solid 7-1 record against a solid schedule that should have the Tide in fine position at this stage for tournament selection purposes. However, we knew going in that improvements needed to be made if Bama wanted to have its top-15 ranking stick, and the sting and pain we all felt from the Georgetown loss will certainly highlight the need for those improvements for fans, coaches and players alike. The Tide will have six days now to prepare for what will be a very salty road test at mid-major power Dayton. Hopefully the players and coaches will make the most of that time to work on the things that led to last night's loss, and the team can get back on track in its first true road game of the season.