"Finally" was the theme for Saturday night's big win over LSU in Coleman Coliseum. Finally, Trevor Releford had some help. Finally, 'Bama made plays down the stretch to secure a win. Finally, Rodney Cooper came out of hibernation. Finally, grabbed more than one rebound in a game. Finally, Alabama beat a decent to good team. Finally, Alabama won a game with its offense, no small feat after starting 0-10 when giving up 65 points or more.
Per usual Releford led the scoring parade with 21 points. On this night, however, he received plenty of help. Rodney Cooper made a significant contribution with 19 points, Shannon Hale added 17 and Levi Randolph dropped in 14. After scoring 17 in the first half Releford managed only four in the second half, but Cooper and Hale picked up the slack with 17 and 14, respectively.
The game started out slowly for 'Bama, falling behind 7-0 right out of the gate, but the Tide went on a 22-2 run to take a comfortable 36-23 lead into the half. 'Bama shot 44.8% (13-29), 1-7 from three and 9-12 from the free throw line in the first half while LSU went 9-28 (32.1%), 2-8 from three and 3-6 from the charity stripe. Tiger star Johnny O'Bryant III had early foul trouble and only played 10 first half minutes, scoring 2 points and grabbing two rebounds. Jacobs had six points and four rebounds at halftime after securing only four rebounds total in the last four games, but unfortunately disappeared a bit in the second half.
'Bama came out hot after the break, hitting three straight three-pointers to stretch the lead to as much as 19 before almost falling apart in the face of effective full-court pressure from the Bayou Bengals. Playing the second consecutive game without starting guard Retin Obasohan, the Tide's ball handlers struggled getting the ball past half court. Releford undoubtedly misses Obasohan more than anyone as he has now played all 40 minutes in consecutive games. Algie Key got the start again and had trouble negotiating the pressure, turning the ball over several times in a row. Over a 12 minute span the Tigers scored 44 points to close the gap and at one point even managed to take the lead.
It was almost an epic collapse by 'Bama but they finally made some plays down the stretch when they needed them most. Trailing by two with 37 seconds left, Hale drilled a three pointer to re-take the lead. After a defensive stop Releford was fouled and calmly drained both free throws for a four point cushion. Inexplicably, Key fouled Andre Stringer on a long, wild three-point attempt with six seconds left. Stringer made all three to close the gap to one. 'Bama inbounded the ball to Cooper, who was fouled with 4.4 seconds remaining. Cooper made the first but the second rolled out, giving the Tigers one last chance. drove the length of the court and got in the paint to try a tying short shot. Cooper met him in front of the basket and blocked the shot as the clock ran out, giving the Tide the much needed victory.
In the second half the Tide shot 14-23, a scorching 60.9%, including 7-9 (77.8%) on three point attempts, and 11-14 (78.6%) at the free throw line. LSU also shot well 20-34 (58.8%) in the second half. Adding 5-8 from three and 12-14 from the free throw line. O'Bryant led the Tigers with 18 points after a strong second half.
With the win 'Bama's record goes to 9-10 overall, and 3-3 in the SEC. LSU dropped to 12-6, also 3-3 in conference play.
There were a lot of positives in this victory but it was certainly far from perfect. Giving up 23 points in the first half, good. Giving up 57 points in the second half, not good. Scoring 36 points in the first half, good. Scoring 46 points in the second half, very good. Only three turnovers in the first half, good. Eleven turnovers in the second half, not good. The three-headed center monster of Jacobs, Carl Engstrom and Jimmie Taylor grabbed four rebounds each, for a total of 12 out of the bigs, that was better. Playing without Obasohan and getting a victory was big. Hopefully with the upcoming several days of rest he will be ready for the next one.
The next game is a big one, as 'Bama travels to Auburn to play the Tigers. Auburn lost once again today to drop their SEC record to 0-7. The Tigers had some big wins early against ACC foes Boston College and Clemson, but seem to have returned to Tony Barbee-level play. Alabama fans may gripe about Coach Anthony Grant, but how in the world does this guy still have a job? The game is Wednesday, January 29th at 7 p.m. and will (once again) be televised on ESPN2.
Roll Tide Y'all